Putting down roots: Meet Vanny
Triple-deckers gave her family a head start, but where are the affordable options for her?
My name is Vanny Huot and I’m a lifelong resident of Revere. Now that I’m in my 30s, I want to set down roots, but I’m here today to tell you that there is an affordable housing crisis in my city and I, along with many of my neighbors, am in danger of getting displaced.
My family and I immigrated to the U.S. in 1981 when I was an infant, leaving behind the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia and seeking the American Dream. My parents had little education and so their job options were limited to factory work. During those early years, my parents did their best to provide a roof over our heads with the income they received.
We stayed with relatives for a while before our family of five moved into a studio apartment, where my oldest sister slept in a cot in the corner of our tiny kitchen, and the remaining four of us shared a full size mattress in the other room. Over the next few years, we moved from triple decker to triple decker within the neighborhood, sometimes sharing the cost of the rent with other friends of the family.
Despite modest incomes, my parents were able to buy our very own triple decker in the neighborhood through hard work, savings, and low housing costs. This is where we still reside. We have many reasons to stay in Revere: access to our Khmer community and stores, as well as proximity to the beach, public transit and the airport. I feel very fortunate because I have access to affordable housing for now, but I know that isn’t the case for many of my friends and neighbors. As property taxes and other costs continue to increase, I’m nervous that my parents may increase my rent drastically to afford to stay in Revere, or even sell their home. We have a shortage of affordable apartments and reasonably priced homes; many of our residents are rent burdened. The current housing choices we have are not enough and rent has increased significantly. In my job as Community Engagement Manager for an affordable housing developer in Chelsea, I see this all the time. For example, I have a neighbor who is a single mother of two whose children’s medical needs and expenses have increased over time. She is juggling care for her kids and maintaining her job. Recently, she found out that her landlord let the triple decker that she lives in go into foreclosure. Between dealing with her children’s health and maintaining her job, she is now struggling to find affordable rent in the city, close to public transportation and her children’s doctors. Many other neighbors are looking for housing that will accommodate extended families but their total household income still cannot afford current rental prices. Some of these families leave to go to cities and towns where the rent is cheaper but are more isolated from transportation, jobs and community. As a result, they may have a rent reduction, but then suffer increased travel expenses, long commutes to get to work, and lack of services and amenities. This is not a better trade off. We need our elected leaders to support affordable housing development and zoning reforms so that families can stay together in neighborhoods that allow them to grow up, raise their children, and stay close to the support they need as they age. I have lived my whole life in Revere and made a deep investment in the community. I support the Great Neighborhood’s campaign to create more neighborhoods around Boston that are walkable and affordable. Thank you for reading and sharing my story. Vanny Huot