Finding shelter has been the most stressful foray into adulthood that I have encountered since graduating from American University in the spring. My search has gone on for three months.
In those three months, I have seen beautiful townhouses with hardwoods and granite countertops. I have seen townhouses with no air conditioning and stenches so pungent, they all but smacked me in the face and warned me to leave before it was too late. I’ve seen group houses with so many people packed in I would have had to use flashcards to learn all of their names. I even saw a place that turned out to be a business during the day and an apartment at night for an “understanding and accommodating tenant.” Seriously, how can that not be a joke?
Yes, if there is one thing I know for sure, it is that with city life comes city prices, and a $1,000 per month budget doesn’t get you much these days. Granted, I will be the first to admit that of all of my original must-haves that I eventually let fall by the wayside, the one that I was unwilling to compromise on was location. Obviously, I am priced out of the city’s ritziest addresses, such as Foggy Bottom and Dupont. However, it was important to me that I was in a safe area with other young people where I could feasibly walk to do errands and catch public transportation.
I also wanted something that would be less than an hour-long commute to my job downtown. Places like this do exist. Some of my favorite neighborhoods, such as Bloomingdale, Columbia Heights and the H Street Corridor, are booming with young 20-somethings navigating the unsettling waters of newfound adulthood. But believe me when I say competition for affordable housing in these areas is fierce; for anyone looking for a place, you can expect to be beaten to the punch over and over again. For a lot of my friends with similar circumstances, finding a place to live can quickly go from leisurely to panicky as the prospect of being homeless inches closer and closer.
A few weeks ago, my wonderful big sister proposed something that would put the kibosh on my housing search, at least for the time being. She offered to rent me the basement apartment in her townhouse a mere block from the H Street Corridor for six months. It’s about a 30-minute commute to work, a few steps from amazing bars and restaurants and a beautiful space. Not to mention the best part, the price: It’s about half of what I originally budgeted for rent.
While most people might have jumped at the opportunity to have their own apartment in a hip neighborhood, I was hesitant. My hesitance had nothing to do with living in such close proximity to my sister. In fact, the apartment offers all of the privacy I could want, and living so close to her is actually a treat. My hesitance was born out of a feeling that I would be settling, that my dreams of the perfect bachelor pad would have to be put on hold. But then something inside of me clicked — dare I say, I think I matured. I warn you, I am about to say something incredibly cliche, but the Rolling Stones were right, “you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might find you get what you need.” I tried, and I think I’ve ended up with exactly what I need for now — an affordable place to live in an area that I love.
Nonetheless, I fully recognize that my situation is far from the norm. As I prepare to settle into my new H Street digs, I can’t help but wonder if it is possible to have it all (in that 20-something, not-really-having-much-of-anything kind of way).
In a city that is known to be recession-proof when it comes to hiring recent graduates, why does it turn its back on us when we need a place to lay our heads at night?
Jon Fox is a recent graduate from American University. In his occasional column, he shared his experiences of looking for an apartment in Washington.
Now that Jon’s found a place, we are looking for a new Apartment Hunter. If you are interested in becoming our next Apartment Hunter, contact Real Estate editor Dion Haynes.