Affordable Housing for Millennials Starting out of College

By Courtney Giles

When Josh Mackey and Cassie Coban were looking for an inexpensive rental, they landed in Bellevue.

After graduating from college, Rilyn Gancia moved back to Monroeville in the interest of affordability.

Jennifer Wright wanted to spend her college years living in the trendy neighborhood of Shadyside.

For tight-budgeted millennials, these are some examples of relatively affordable rentals that can be found according to your budget.

While Bellevue, Monroeville and Shadyside are three of the best deals around Pittsburgh, there are also eight more areas that make the list – Oakland, Mount Washington, Southside, Lawrenceville, Squirrel Hill, The Strip District, Bloomfield and the Central Business District.

When young couple Josh Mackey and Cassie Coban were apartment hunting for their first place, they mainly searched in Bellevue for it’s convenience and proximity.

Bellevue, a small borough right outside the North Side of Pittsburgh, is one of the best bargain areas around. Not only will Bellevue save you money in rent, but with countless businesses and entertainment located within in walking distance, you may even save on gas as well. Kuhn’s grocery store is located on Lincoln Avenue, blocks from surrounding neighborhoods. If you’re looking to dine out, Big Shot Bob’s, Thai Tamarind and Rusty Nail are the Top Three Restaurants in Bellevue according to Yelp.

To get downtown, residents simply jump on the bus, which takes about ten minutes or less. A typical rental is The Hillcrest Apartments, located at Hillcrest Drive, where the price for a one bedroom, one bathroom apartment starts at $645 per month. There are laundry facilities, air conditioning, a balcony, a patio and a deck. This apartment also boasts an updated interior as well as a new dishwasher. If you’re looking for a bit more space, two bedrooms, one-bathroom apartments are available starting at $795 per month. The couple has lived in Bellevue for four months and pays $625 per month, split between the two of them.

“I think Bellevue is perfect for people our age because it is close enough to the city and everything around it – plus the shops and restaurants along Lincoln Avenue. It’s a safe neighborhood to walk around, and study outside,” Coban said. “The neighborhood is quiet, yet always full of people and things going on.” Mackey says, “It’s cheap – there’s a ton of apartments for rent and more supply than demand.”

Rilyn Gancia grew up in Monroeville, so it was natural to move back to the area after finishing college. She says, “I really liked Monroeville growing up, we basically have everything we need within like five to ten miles away. I know rent is really cheap in a suburban area like this. I think it’s a give and take type of situation. It’s a little bit further away from the city but rent is cheaper and you don’t have to pay for a monthly parking pass like you do in other areas.”

For $700 per month, affordable and charming apartments can also be found in the Monroeville Area. Monroeville is a municipality located in the eastern half of Allegheny County, approximately thirteen miles outside Pittsburgh. With a good mixture of residential and commercial establishments, residents of the area can enjoy both entertainment and relaxation. If you like shopping, Monroeville is the place for you. With the Monroeville Mall and the Shops at Penn Center close by, shoppers have many options.

Gancia said, “We have a mall and a lot of shopping centers, as well as grocery stores.”

The Monroeville Convention Center is regarded as one of the best amenities in the area, bringing everything from arts and craft shows to job fairs into the community. The apartment community flourishes. There are the Flats at Fox Hill Apartments, where renters can find a one bedroom, one bathroom, 730 sq. ft. apartment with balconies and walk in closets for $675 per month. The Flats have been recently renovated and now have stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors and granite countertops. There are also a few community features worth mentioning including tennis courts, a swimming pool and a fitness center. This complex is also pet friendly and all residents are given free parking with their lease.

Jennifer Wright is a 21-year-old college student in her third year at Carlow University. After transferring from Penn State in 2014, she chose Shadyside as her home for the rest of her college years. Wright works at a local boutique on Walnut Street and has lived in her apartment on Ellsworth Avenue for about one year. She says, “My favorite thing about my apartment is the location and the affordability. It’s very friendly to college students with local bars and restaurants as well as shopping locations nearby. It’s also easy for me to get to and from school.” Wright has one roommate that she splits her rent with. “I pay $400 plus utilities, which usually ranges from $30 – $50 per month.”

Jennifer Wright shows off her Shadyside apartment. Photo by Courtney Giles.
Jennifer Wright shows off her Shadyside apartment. Photo by Courtney Giles.

Wright’s total rent of $1,000 per month is average for the neighborhood. Visit Pittsburgh describes Shadyside as “Upscale hip. Earthy undertones. Savvy style with modish sensibilities and an academic fringe factor.” One of the most popular hubs in Shadyside is Walnut Street where you can eat, shop and be entertained. On nearby Ellsworth Avenue sits a wide assortment of restaurants, bars and businesses. Many of these businesses are local and over 50 of them welcome you to bring your dog in with you! Every year Shadyside hosts the Summer Jam on Walnut in which they block off the street for three days of festivities in August. As for renting in the area, listings show a two bedroom, one bathroom, 700 sq. ft. apartment can be found for $1,000 on Filbert Street, which is close to Walnut. This space has new hardwood floors as well as new windows. Transportation is not a problem for residents as this apartment is right on the bus line.

For those looking to spend $900 a month on rent, Oakland and Mount Washington have some good options. Although you might have spent your college years in Oakland, it might not be a bad idea to stick around after graduation. Whether you’re looking for your first real job, or starting a graduate program, this area screams convenience. No car? No problem. With countless shops, restaurants and small businesses within walking distance, residents of the area aren’t stuck at home. Oakland is also minutes from downtown, and residents can easily jump on the bus for a quick adventure.

Real estate agent Dustin Nulf says, “Oakland is a great choice for millennials who will be moving to Pittsburgh after college. It has a great location in the middle of lots of nightlife and other things to do. It’s right on the bus line and a short trip to nearly any other location in Pittsburgh. For millennials looking to buy their first home, the prices on Oakland condos cannot be beat. Rental rates are competitive as well.” For $915 per month, you can rent a 580 sq. ft. apartment with one bedroom and one bathroom located on North Dithridge Street. These spaces have fully equipped kitchens and high speed Internet throughout the building. Heat, water, sewage, gas, hot water and trash are all included in your rent.

Those who are sick of the college scene and looking for a new view, Mount Washington may quite literally be your best option. The sight of the city from Grandview Avenue is something every Pittsburgher knows well. Visit Pittsburgh describes the Mount Washington area as “Awe inspiring and up-lifting. A dog walker’s paradise. Millionaires and just plain folk.” Although there are millionaires staring at that pricey view from their kitchen every morning, anyone can enjoy the perks of living atop the city. Mount Washington is known for its good food, specifically fine dining. “Restaurant Row,” located on Grandview Avenue, is the best lineup of high end eats in the city. However, with the restaurants boasting large windows and breathtaking views, customers are paying for more than just the food. For dessert, residents may stop by the Grandview Bakery for a treat after dinner. From candy and chocolate to cupcakes and brownies, this sugar factory is sure to satisfy your sweet tooth. On a lighter note (on the wallet), Shiloh Street has a wide assortment of bars, restaurants and businesses to offer. Aside from food, residents have the accessibility of Downtown, Pittsburgh just an incline ride away. As summer approaches and residents of the Mount Washington area begin to venture outside once again, they may want to check out Emerald View Park – the newest park in the Pittsburgh area. For $899 per month, you can rent a 1 bedroom, 1 bathroom apartment on Winston Street in Mount Washington. Water and gas are included in your rent and pets are allowed. This solid brick home turned apartment has off-street parking, a large flat yard, an eat-in kitchen and a washer and dryer.

If you have $1,000 to spend on rent and don’t want to live in Shadyside, viable options can be found in Southside and Lawrenceville. If you’ve ever been over to Southside you know East Carson Street is the main attraction, which is why it is considered the Great American Main Street of Pittsburgh. According to Visit Pittsburgh, this strip of road features blocks of Victorian Architecture and it was even named a national historic district. As you walk down the street, you can see many boutiques, restaurants and art galleries. It is also close to the River Trail if you feel like biking all the way to Washington, D.C. Another nice thing about the Southside area is that there are gyms and fitness studios within walking distance. For even more entertainment check out the Southside Works for shops, restaurants and even a movie theater.

Samantha Chain is a 26-year-old resident of the Southside Flats currently working as a coordinator at UPMC. Chain shares her two-bedroom townhouse with one roommate, each paying $675 per month in rent, totaling $1,350 per month, however utilities are not included. “Roughly my cost of living is estimated to be $900 a month,” she says.

Samantha Chain stands on the streets of Southside. Photo by Courtney Giles.
Samantha Chain stands on the streets of Southside. Photo by Courtney Giles.

“Living in the Southside is extremely convenient not only because of my commute to work (which is six minutes to downtown), but also the restaurants, shops, nightlife and daily activities available to the Southside community.”

Sharing her space with a roommate makes the Southside an affordable option for Chain, who says, “It is a great place to live when you are a young working professional, but at the same time it is very costly. Living on your own is certainly rewarding but it can be financially exhausting and frustrating.”

At Southside Works City Apartments you can have a modern, 400 sq. ft. studio apartment for $1,065 per month. These apartments are newly renovated and boast stainless steel appliances, hardwood floors and fireplaces. As for the apartment complex as a whole, residents can enjoy a community pool, free parking and a full concierge service.

The last area to look out for with a budget of $1,000 is Lawrenceville. This growing neighborhood is perfect for millennials because of its innovative and hip vibes, and for boasting one of the hottest art scenes in the region. Every year, a group of volunteers put together an event in which anyone can show off their artwork. Art All Night describes the event as a catalyst for community development that shines a spotlight on the unique neighborhood of Lawrenceville. Other entertainment in the area includes bowling at popular alley Arsenal Bowl, and visiting the Carnegie Museum.

College student Flannery Joyce has lived in Lawrenceville her entire life, even deciding to stay for college, because of its close proximity to downtown.

“Unfortunately, Lawrenceville isn’t as affordable as it once was, but that hasn’t stopped people from moving here because they know that Lawrenceville is the place to be,” she says.

For $1,000 per month with some utilities included, you can rent a one bedroom, one bathroom, 684 sq. ft. apartment at the Davison Square Apartments. This complex has common areas for residents to enjoy and is located in a peaceful area. The individual apartments have balconies, fully equipped kitchens, off-street parking and spacious closets. Laundry facilities are located on every floor of the building.

Those with a larger budget of $1,500 can find expansive dwellings in The Strip District and Squirrel Hill. The Strip District has long been known as a hub of food and produce, but it has become a housing mecca in recent years.

The Strip District is nicknamed ‘Pittsburgh’s Historic Market District’ because of the variety and authenticity of the businesses in the area. Residents may go to the Heinz History Center for some Pittsburgh history or stop into Primanti’s for a one-of-a-kind sandwich. For $1,536 per month, you can rent a one bedroom, one bathroom, 864 sq. ft. apartment at the Cork Factory Apartments. These spaces have new interiors, stainless steel appliances, as well as a washer and dryer in the unit. These units are pet friendly and residents also get access to a fitness center, hot tub and community pool. Another convenient aspect of the Cork Factory is an on-site parking garage and 24-hour computer stations available to all residents.

For $1,500 per month you can also live comfortably in Squirrel Hill. Squirrel Hill is one of the most culturally diverse neighborhoods in Pittsburgh and anyone can see why when they try the food. Delicious ethnic eats such as Aladdin’s Eatery, Bangkok Balcony and Silk Elephant are readily available to residents of the area. As far as shopping goes, the Avalon Exchange, Orr’s Jeweler’s and Little’s Shoes are some of the most popular destinations in Squirrel Hill.

The area is close to Schenley Park, which was named “One of America’s Coolest City Parks” by Travel and Leisure. Sarah Scholze, a twenty-year-old college student at the University of Pittsburgh, has lived in Squirrel Hill for about seven months. Her rent is $595 per month plus a garage fee of $65. Her roommate pays $655 per month for a grand total of $1,315. “It’s close to buses and school, as well as restaurants and things like that. The area is definitely appropriate for millennials, it has all the benefits of a city without the pollution.” Similar to Sarah’s rent, for $1,410 per month, you can rent a one bedroom, one bathroom, 768 sq. ft. apartment at The Gateway at Summerset Apartments. These units provide the feel of a hip, upscale apartment while still located in a traditional neighborhood. There are countless amenities this complex offers, including a basketball court, soaking tubs, free parking, a sauna and a 24-hour fitness center. The convenience of this apartment is unbeatable with washers and dryers in each residence and 24-hour maintenance available on site.

If you have a rent budget of $2,000 per month, check out Bloomfield and the Central Business District.

Realtor with RE/MAX Select Reality, Dave Runco says, “Bloomfield’s ‘Pittsburgh’s Little Italy’ neighborhood has become a draw for the millennial generation because it offers many amenities that fit their needs, as I’ve seen it first hand being in the real estate industry. On the real estate end, as millennials are just starting their careers finding a place to call home that they can afford in an a trending area is key; home values and rental prices have risen in recent years, but are still lower than other neighboring areas.”

Bloomfield is a stop on the popular “Burgh and Bit’s” food tour. Other favorite annual events include Columbus Day and Halloween parades. Many unique shops, bars and restaurants are also in the Bloomfield area and residents enjoy the convenience. The Morrow Park City Apartments are a perfect option for residency, especially for millennials. Real estate agent Dustin Nulf says, “The East End in general is booming and holds some of Pittsburgh’s highest and fastest-appreciating neighborhoods. Areas like Bloomfield, Lawrenceville, East Liberty and Highland Park are great locations for millennials looking to buy or rent and still be close to numerous hot spots and recreation.” For $1,575 you can rent a one bedroom, one bathroom, 715 sq. ft. apartment located on Liberty Avenue. This complex is certainly upscale with both an indoor and outdoor pool, a Zen garden and several grilling and fire pits. You also get your own assigned parking space when you sign the lease. There’s an option of a bay window in some units, but all ceilings are 9 to 16 ft.

Sticking with the budget of $2,000, the Central Business District is next on the list. With more space and a higher rent comes the opportunity for roommates, making this area more affordable for millennials. You’ll be in the middle of all the city action while having the option for your own convenient escape. With countless businesses lining the streets of the city, residents of this area aren’t bored very often. City living is perfect for sports lovers as well with Consol Energy Center, PNC Park and Heinz Field within walking distance. Public transportation downtown is simple with tons of buses coming and going everyday. The T, formally known as the Pittsburgh Light Rail, is another affordable form of transportation, functioning as a subway around Pittsburgh neighborhoods. For starting at $1,887 per month, you can have a two bedroom, two bathroom loft in downtown. In the Market Square Place apartments, you pay for location as much as your actual apartment. Each and every floor plan of the Market Square Place apartments are completely unique, but they all feature massive windows overlooking Market Square, 15-inch ceilings with skylights and updated modern kitchens.

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Courtney Giles is a photojournalism major at Point Park University who will graduate in the Spring of 2017.