How to live in Charlestown, Boston for $900 per month

Andrew Criscione took a wheeled office chair and placed it on one side of his bedroom.

When he removed his hands from it, the chair rolled quickly toward the other side of the room and crashed into the windowsill outside of which the sun was setting over the picturesque Charlestown neighborhood in Boston.

“The floor is on a slant,” he said with a laugh. “Why are people living in housing that’s 130 years old?”

But a slanted floor is not the only problem with the building. Criscione also pointed to an outer wall on the lower level of the house that was bowed out from age and weather damage. He and his roommate also are concerned about mold or radon, but the landlord refused to have the house tested for them.

“If I went to the city the best case scenario is: I get evicted and the landlord is fine,” Criscione said.

The only reason Criscione, a 29-year-old who works in marketing, can afford to live in this neighborhood near his work is because he lives in an illegal sublet.

“I have a love-hate relationship with slumlords,” Criscione said. “If not for this, I would have nowhere to live. We’re all making the best we can of this rent crisis.”

Criscione is renting one of three bedrooms in a multi-family house for $900 on a month-to-month basis. He shares a bathroom and kitchen with roommates whom he did not know previously.

Before he began living at this unit six months ago, Criscione drove more than 30 miles from Salem, New Hampshire, to get to work.

“I was climate change,” Criscione wrote in a recent letter to his legislator, advocating for more housing options in sensible locations, as the Great Neighborhoods bill calls for.

Not only was he concerned about the pollution he generated, but fighting through traffic from other commuters who cannot afford to live closer to their city jobs was a daily source of stress for Criscione.

He eventually decided to move to the city, but the only affordable option was the illegal sublet he currently lives in, which he found on Craigslist.

“And I’m not poor. I make about $53,000 a year,” he said, and added that he qualifies for low-income housing in Cambridge.

In his current situation, however, Criscione said he would not be able to start a family if he wanted to.

But the Bedford native argued the state’s housing crisis does not just affect the younger generations. His parents currently have two unused bedrooms at their house in Bedford. They want to downsize, but cannot afford a condominium, Criscione said.

“It’s a waste of space,” Criscione said. The housing crisis “is also screwing the (baby) boomers.”

Criscione is one of many supporting the Great Neighborhoods bill, which will create more housing options to help alleviate the state’s housing market pressures. Criscione also appreciates that the bill will make it easier for communities to build housing in sensible locations. Currently, the state is producing less than half the homes needed annually.

Criscione looked around his tilted room as he pulled his chair away from the window.

“If the landlord offered me a one-year lease, I don’t know if I would take it,” he said.

The previous tenants moved out because of heating issues, Criscione said, and he is apprehensive about how the creaky home will fare in the impending winter. He is unsure of what other options he has, however.

“A big part of my future will depend on if this bill passes,” he said.

You can join Criscione in the bid for more housing options by signing the petition and by writing to your legislator in support of the Great Neighborhoods bill — House Bill 2420 and Senate Bill 81.

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