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by Katy Purviance on 06/18/08 @ 11:47:24 am
Categories: My Travels | 353 words | 1126 views

This is FULL ON CRAZY TIME for apartment rentals in the greater Cambridge area. I spent the past week walking around the Harvard periphery looking for a suitable place for the fall, and this is what I found:

1. Cambridge is unbelievably expensive.
I’ve lived in a few college towns, and the nice thing about college towns is that the rents tend to be aligned with a typical college student’s budget. Cambridge is not one of those places. A simple 1 bedroom could run you $2,000 a month.

2. The rest of us get shoved into every nook and cranny.
Just outside of Cambridge, rent gets more affordable. Plenty of old houses have been chopped up into maybe 6 or 8 apartments each. I don’t think some of the places we saw were up to code. We climbed up one 18″ wide stair case. The banister was wobbly because it had been removed and reattached so many times – unscrewing the banister is the only way to move your furniture up and down.

3. Apartments have fees.
Almost all of the apartments we looked at have fees. This means that the owner doesn’t want to deal with showing the place himself so some real estate broker does the showing instead. If you like the place and want to move in you’ve gotta pay the broker half a month’s rent. So let’s do some math: Expensive rent divided by two, times the bijillion tiny apartments in the area equals A LOT OF FRICKEN MONEY for those brokers!

4. Public transportation is AWESOME!
The poor urban planning of Los Angeles sentences its residence to either car ownership or maddeningly long and inefficient bus rides. Cambridge/Somerville is different. You can catch a bus to a T station from just about anywhere. I’m so excited about that that I want to say it again, but in a different way: I get to sell my car! I will no longer be forced to idle on stalled freeways, or choke on exhaust, or spend almost $5 per gallon of gas, or get my oil changed, or hear my mechanic tell me that I owe him hundreds of dollars.

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places where you could probably learn more about designing and building in just a few days than I did after a year of grad school

Know of some others I can add here? Let me know. Have you already visited some of these places...or planning on it? Let me know and I will feature your story and your photos here!

I am starting a new kind of architecture school. Unlike most architecture schools, you wouldn't have to submit GRE scores or good grades or letters of recommendation. You wouldn't have to put the rest of your life on hold for 3 to 5 years. You wouldn't have to accrue tens of thousands of dollars in debt. At my architecture school, anyone could come for a few weeks and learn how to build a house with their own two hands. My teachers would take skills and concepts from some of these other workshops I've listed above... except classes would be held year-round to make it easy to fit into your schedule. I would have a number of different campuses around the country that would teach building designs appropriate to the local climate. And I need your help. Can you donate land for a campus? Can you dotate books for a library? Can you teach a workshop? Can you provide start-up capital? Let me know.

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