Boston requires city workers to live there, but many can’t afford it and need help

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BOSTON – Boston employees tasked with taking care of the city are in trouble – faced with rising rent, they’re being pushed out, leaving Boston understaffed and overwhelmed.

Requiring city workers to live in Boston

In 1976, Boston implemented a rule – if you work for the city you’ll have to live in the city too. Half a century later, that rent is rising and the rule is revealing repercussions.

“I want to remain in Boston because I want to continue to do the work that I love. When those dreams feel like they’re slipping away I do begin to get nervous,” said Melissa Beltran, who in 2022 was making $44,000 working for the city’s Public Health Commission, barely keeping up with rent. “I had to work weekends freelance babysitting. I remember trying to go through the shelter avenue, having hiccups in that, it just felt really difficult.”

She has since received a raise and it’s helped but like so many, she was forced to consider leaving the city she loves.

“Heartbreaking,” says Beltran.

Ways to make it easier

“You shouldn’t have to work three, four jobs to live here,” said Boston City Councilor-At-Large, Julia Mejia.

On Wednesday, the City Council scheduled a hearing to discuss access to affordable housing and increased pay for city workers.

“If we are expecting our city residents to live here, then what we need to start doing is everything in our power to ensure that they can afford to live here,” said Mejia.

The average rent in Boston is $3,926, compared to the national average of $1,702. While according to the city’s earnings report, 7,500 city employees make less than $30,000 a year.

“It’s hard for city departments to fill their requirements. We don’t want qualified workers to choose between a job or whether they can afford to work here,” said Boston City Councilor Ben Weber.

The City Council is looking to cities like New York, where trade unions have committed millions to support a similar initiative.

“Everyone in the city here benefits from the hard work of our municipal workers, court clerks, street sweepers, police department, firefighters. I support and we need to make sure they can live here,” said Weber.

WBZ TV did ask councilors if they are considering lifting the residency requirement, they said they aren’t having that discussion yet. WBZ also reached out to Mass Landlord to ask if they’re involved in talks but did not immediately hear back.

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