I’m Michelle. I am a 25 year-old millennial who has lived in Duluth since 2010 and has moved five times since arriving. From college dorm, to college apartment, to overcrowded college house, to first apartment, to second apartment, to third apartment. And I’m not unique. Many of my friends have a very similar journey to find a home. We’ve been renting for so long, we’re basically professionals. We live in a college town where rental properties have a high demand and also a fairly high price tag. Which means when the end of the lease cycle comes up, people start hunting. Literally.
For example, my own story. Last year my living situation changed. I had to work hard to find a suitable apartment for a reasonable price. Craigslist’s Apartment section was my homepage. I knew what neighborhood I wanted to live in (something close to my job as well as my favorite parts of Duluth), what my budget was, and the features I was looking for in an apartment. After a month of relentlessly searching and applying, I found it. My dream apartment. It was on my favorite street, on the high-side of my budget, but it had a nice bathroom and kitchen, it was clean, and there were these beautiful built-ins in the living room and bedroom. Plus original stained glass! Be still my HGTV-loving heart! And, after applying and sweating it out for a weekend while the landlords called references (and I had killer references) I was rejected. I lost out to a couple. Single renters will always lose out to a couple. I bet it has to do with the landlord’s ease of mind when rent comes around, but I was crushed. I toured four more apartments that were laughably terrible (one smelled so badly of weed and febreeze that I couldn’t stop giggling on the tour and all of them had carpeted kitchens. Don’t carpet a kitchen. Gross.)
Finally, I found the apartment I’m in now. And I secured it by being far too aggressive and waving a $500 check for the security deposit in the property manager’s face the minute the tour ended. It’s a glorified hallway with one bedroom that I pay $500 a month for. Which is a steal. Also, I don’t care if you know how much I pay for rent. It’s about 27% of my monthly budget. You should know how much I pay for rent and you should know how much other young people pay for rent in this city as well. It’s kind of why I’m starting this project.
Lately, our city has been helping new developments spring up around town. Great, I’m all for economic improvement. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on housing, rental markets, development strategies, or finances. I actually know almost nothing about any of that. What I do know is that my friends live in apartments or rental houses. Probably 95% of the people I would call friends, or folks I’m friendly with, are in rentals. And I do know that when these new developments say (for example) they are going to rent one bedrooms for young professionals or folks in the workforce for $975/mo, there is visible outrage. It leaves me wondering, who can afford this? Why do we keep funding these projects that seem out of reach for my peers?
Do I just know a bunch of broke people? Friends, do we just need to get our shit together financially or is something not quite right? Maybe my friends DO have nice apartments and I haven’t been inside! If I don’t know how some of my favorite people live within this city, maybe those who are in charge of these projects don’t either. I hope it’s ignorance and not the fact that they don’t care about people like me, who want a nice, safe, and well-maintained rental for a reasonable price. So, if it is ignorance, I want to fix that. I’m going to be doing renter profiles of young professionals (or if the word professional scares you, young folks) in this community. Then maybe project developers can get an idea of who needs housing and what we want. Plus, I love looking around people’s homes. It’s fascinating.
This is a personal project of investigation. I want to know Duluth’s renters. I want to learn about an idea of a “temporary home.” I want to see your weirdest artwork and your beautiful view of the lake. Maybe then I can finally understand the world of renting.