‘How much do you pay for rent?’: We asked South Oakland residents about their rent and took a look inside their apartments

By Katelyn Kruszewski, Staff Writer

Maddie Jenkins weaves through an alley, making her way towards a back door hidden behind a staircase. She uses her key to open the door with a flourish, calling out to see if any of her roommates are home. She walks up two staircases, passing two separate kitchens to show off the house’s living room and notes to the camera that the second kitchen is her “favorite” kitchen. 

Jenkins, a junior psychology and environmental studies major, lives in an apartment in South Oakland with six other women, near a row of popular local bars. She said she pays around $650 for rent.

“If Times Square were located in Oakland, this would be the street,” Jenkins said. 

Looking out through the apartment windows, bars and shops line the street, brightly lit in the cool autumn air. Neon signs light up the area and a local bar boasts a karaoke poster. Jenkins gestures around the living room, the bars’ lights still visible outside of the high windows.

“I can hear ‘Country Girl (Shake It For Me)’ from my room from Phat’s karaoke,” Jenkins said. “I wish it would end.”

The trend “How much do you pay for rent?” swept TikTok a few months ago, with Tiktokers approaching strangers on the street to ask them how much they paid for their living circumstances. Tiktokers would then ask to have a short tour of strangers’ apartments to see what they were paying for. 

The Pitt News staff teamed up to explore one of Pitt students’ most popular living locations 一 South Oakland.

Many Pitt students live in South Oakland, with a population of around 3,858 residents. Walking through the streets of South Oakland, most residents hesitated at the request for a tour, citing that their houses were “too messy” for the public, but others jumped at the chance to show off their living arrangements. Most residents agree that they live in South Oakland due to the price, but many also cite the luxury of simply living off campus.

Kara Allelunas, a junior actuarial math major, lives with two roommates in a small house. She pays $533 a month, including water. She said she moved to South Oakland after her first year at Pitt.

“It’s cheap. Like, it’s just the easiest,” Allelunas said. “It was COVID year my freshman year and I just wanted to get off campus.

Before entering her apartment, Allelunas shouts into the home to see if her roommates are there, welcoming The Pitt News into her living room area. 

Allelunas lives in a two-story apartment that is small, but quaint. The refrigerator in the kitchen showcases pictures of Allelunas and her friends. She explains that her friends recently hosted a birthday party, as leftover balloons are scattered along her staircase as evidence. 

The living room is spacious by college standards, and a high table and two chairs sit in the corner of the space. Allenuas gestures to the table.

“Really big living room, that’s kind of our dining room right there behind you,” Allenuas said. “It’s maybe a five minute walk to Posvar, it’s so close and nice.”

Phoebe Katz, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, said she lives in South O because of its convenience.

“About $650 a month, I get my own kitchen, it’s really close to campus,” Katz said.

For many Pitt students, South Oakland is primarily a place for off-campus student housing, but there are still many Pittsburgh locals that call the area home. Jenkins said she likes living in South O, but doesn’t like how this student-dominated residency has affected locals.

“I like the comradery of being around so many college students … but it’s also devastating because it’s gentrifying Oakland. It used to be such a family-oriented neighborhood,” Jenkins said. “I love it, as a college student. For a family, I don’t love it as much.”