Clippings: Notes on moving day from a 24-year-old
I was fixing a cup of coffee a few weeks ago, when I mentioned to a colleague that I was moving.
“Again?” she asked. “It seems like you just did.”
I reminded her that that was in December. Now it was nearing summer and the lease was be expiring. I was moving across town to an apartment I would sublet until August.
“And what’re you going to do at the end of the summer?” she probed. I replied with a shrug.
“Oh to be 23 again,” she sighed, leaving me to my coffee.
I’m 24, by the way, and I like to think I’m making progress toward some semblance of the Modern Man. In many ways, I consider myself lucky; I managed to emerge from four years of college with little debt and I’m gainfully employed in a job that I enjoy. I’m making strides in other areas as well — shave regularly, dress well for work and I’ve even stopped freeloading on my parents’ Netflix account. I think I deserve some credit, but there’s one area where I consistently find myself running into trouble.
Vermont is one of the most challenging states to find and rent an apartment or purchase and own a home. It’s a classic example of too much demand meeting not enough supply. It’s a situation that’s been discussed and debated at the state level and bemoaned by people my age over beers, and I think it’s safe to say that the conclusion is the same no matter who you ask; the rent is too darn high.
Moving day in Burlington was hell in a U-Haul trailer. The greenway grew gardens of discarded coffee mugs, lamps and futon frames, and the streets were clogged with overburdened trucks and vans — all parking poorly. My entire life can be packed into the back of a Subaru Forester and can be driven — albeit slowly and guided by rearview mirrors — to whatever sublet I’m taking over. This is the way it’s been since I graduated from college, when I took over a summer sublet in Middlebury. Since then I’ve seen history repeat itself again and again.
Studies dating as far back as 2005 from the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition indicate that there isn’t enough housing in the state, and Vermonters spend much of their income on what housing is available. Even with a recession, the costs of renting an apartment have continued to rise so that today a person needs to make increasingly more to keep up with the rising cost of rent. Many feel like there’s not much housing available, and when tough job prospects are added, Vermont seems less like a welcoming place to raise a family — a statement that I’d be the first to declare false. The population is continually skewing older and many people raised here start looking for an escape hatch after high school, seldom returning. It’s a trend that we’ve got to reverse.
For a young person willing to play the game, that means endless and fruitless searches on Craigslist, wheeling and dealing with miserly landlords and some serious problems with creeping black mold. My own experiences finding the next place lend themselves more readily to comedy, but for others, the situation is far more serious, especially during winters like the one we just experienced.
For me, the housing search seems to be the luck of the draw, and all I do is try to make the best decisions based on the options presented to me. Sometimes, taking that chance is rewarding; I met my girlfriend through the housemates I was living with last summer and I’ve found Addison County and the Champlain Valley to be a great place to live. I’ve been here for just over a year, and I’ve got no plans to leave yet.
But this spring has proven to be the other side of the coin. These days, I’m sharing a room with my brother while he interns for the summer in the Burlington area. The splitting of a room harkens back to the earliest days of our youth, but it saves us both hundreds on rent. Meanwhile, our housemates leave us passive aggressive notes on the fridge reminding us to clean or to not touch their glassware.
At the end of this month, I’ll be moving to my fifth place — a barn in the woods that’s been converted into a living space. The gas will be cheaper and my neighbors will be quieter. But I will need to furnish it, which I suppose is just another part of getting older.
But roommates aside, the issue at least partially explains why Vermont has such a hard time attracting the young and energetic workforce it so desires. People moving to a new state want more than just a job, they want (and deserve) a community with amenities that make it home, including schools, emergency services and an affordable stock of housing to choose from.
I’m 24 and I still plan on sticking around for the foreseeable future. However, if you know anyone who has a spare coffee table or couch, please be in touch.
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