Allston / Brighton

Renting in Allston doesn’t leave many options
By Adrienne Lamplough

Mike Gallagher of Commonwealth Realty has a bargain to show.

On the third floor of a three-family home on Chester Street in Allston is an apartment that’s advertised to have one and a half bedrooms for only $950 a month with heat and hot water.

That is a steal for Allston – except for the holes in the stairway’s walls and the peeling wallpaper that dates back to circa 1950. This house either was or still is a fraternity house that has seen better days. The rickety stairway is so narrow it’s uncertain how the current renters moved their furniture in. The half bedroom would be nice, if you didn’t have to walk through the bathroom to get there and the ceilings didn’t slant down to little more than an exaggerated crawl space. The living room and bedroom ceilings are the same – they slant so sharply you can only stand up straight in the middle of the room.

The main hallway in this three-family house on Chester Street is riddled with holes in the walls and peeling wallpaper.

But don’t forget: Mike Gallagher said this place is a bargain – and he’s been in the real estate business for two years.

The average one-bedroom in Allston-Brighton costs between $1,000 and $1,200 a month, Gallagher said. For nicer amenities, modern appliances and better upkeep expect to pay closer to $1,200. Renters who can only afford only $1,000 can expect to see smaller, run-down apartments with old appliances and less access to the Green line and bus routes, he said.

Sean Munson from On-Line Realty on Harvard Avenue puts it even more bluntly. When asked what $950 a month will get, he says you can expect to see “crap.”

Munson has a one-bedroom in Allston available that he said needs a thorough washing, paint job and new rugs. It might not be livable even with these improvements, he cautions, but there isn’t much else to show for around $1,000.

Willianto Alim, a realtor from All-Bright Realty on Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton, said a lot of the affordable places in Allston-Brighton are run-down.

The half bedroom is an exaggerated crawl space off of the bathroom. The ceiling is only 5-feet-high when standing in the middle of the room.

Alim just moved to Boston a few months ago from Indonesia. He is new to the real estate business and is adjusting to life in the United States. When he was first looking for a place to live, Alim said his realtor would tell him anything just so he’d make a sale.

Alim said he doesn’t work that way. “The realtors aren’t very helpful. They tell you what you want to hear and don’t explain the important things, like parking,” Alim said.

No one explained the parking situation to Alim, who lives in a run-down one-bedroom apartment in Brighton for $900 a month. He has to park at metered spaces two blocks away and move his car every morning before 8 a.m.
Alim isn’t alone when finding the cost of apartments on the high end.

Gallagher said he rents a lot of three-bedroom apartments to Boston University students because it is cheaper to live with a bunch of people rather than living alone. The average three-bedroom rents around $1,800 to $2,100 a month, he said.

Gallagher said he has only helped college students in the two years he’s been showing apartments and doesn’t know anyone who has shown apartments to families.
It’s difficult for families to live around here because of the noise and the issue of de-leading, Gallagher said.

The narrow stairway leading to the third floor, attic-style apartment on Chester Street.

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, “Lead poisoning is a disease caused by lead in the body that is especially dangerous for young children. It can cause permanent damage to the brain, kidneys and nervous system. Even low levels can slow a child's development and cause learning behavior problems.”

Landlords and realtors try to stay away from families because it is expensive to de-lead and they know that when students are renting the apartment it will most likely be available for a new group the following year. Families usually stay longer, Gallagher said.

“This is not a family friendly area; loud kids, bars, schools. If I had kids I wouldn’t live here," Gallagher said. "This isn’t an area for a family. I wouldn’t raise a family here, no way in hell.”

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2) Renting in Allston

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