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Making it in DFW: Meet Caazena Hunter of Pleasant Grove & Cedar Hill

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By Joi Louviere

May 15, 2024

We all know the cost of living in DFW has changed dramatically in recent years and it’s affected every element of people’s lives. That’s why we’ve launched “Making It in DFW,” a new occasional feature where we interview folks who call the Metroplex home to find out what they’re doing to live their best life. If you’ve got a story you’d like to share, email [email protected].

Caazena Hunter is 43 and has no plans to move out of her parents’ house anytime soon.

The Cedar Hill woman went to college in Tulsa and came back to the DFW in 2003 for a master’s program at University of North Texas. She got an apartment during that time: $500 a month for 700 square feet of freedom. 

It turned out, though, that she didn’t want it.

“Some days, when I didn’t have classes I’d just go home because I never thought of Denton as home,” she said. “I always thought of my parents and my family as home.”

During the last five months of the lease, the apartment essentially became a storage unit as Hunter stopped sleeping there altogether. Her family lives in a five-bedroom house with an office and a game room, giving the three adults plenty of space and privacy.

Now with her full-time job as a nonprofit director and consulting work, Hunter makes anywhere from $100,000 to $130,000 a year. She’s a frequent traveler, leaving for Senegal this month, and she cruises the metroplex in a 2020 two-seater Mazda Miata convertible with the license plate that says “YES I CAN.” 

Making it in DFW: Meet Caazena Hunter of Pleasant Grove & Cedar Hill

For many people, moving back home to live with your parents can often seem like a last resort. But Hunter said this was a decision she made intentionally, and with no regrets. 

“People think people live at home because they can’t afford to move and that’s not everyone’s story,” she said. “That’s not my story.”

Recent analysis of U.S. Census data via Axios found nearly 16 percent of millennials lived with their parents in 2022 and 10 percent of Dallas County residents live in multigenerational households. 

The why behind Hunter’s unique living situation

Hunter’s status as a “stay-at-home daughter” is largely informed by several moments throughout her life. 

When she was 12 years old, she decided she did not want to have children after she witnessed the birth of her niece. In her PhD program, a professor’s death by suicide taught her a big lesson about the value of life and how she wanted to structure hers. And as she started dating more as a young adult, she realized she did not want to be married or share a space with a partner.

Hunter now travels six or seven times a year, always leaving the country for her birthday with her sister in tow. The two plan 10-day trips to experience different cultures and see the beauty of the world, just like when she was studying abroad in college. 

The benefit of living with one’s parents

Psychologists suggest living alone gives women the opportunity to nurture themselves and develop independence, but self-reliance isn’t Hunter’s sole value. She straddles the line. 

“The U.S. is very individualistic, but… I don’t know if our origin story is a story of individualism and ‘I did it all by myself’ because none of us can do anything by ourselves,” she said. “It’s all about going further with community.”

She sees examples of that from her Latinx neighbors and certainly in her travels. She even remembers stories about how her grandmother moved to Dallas with seven children and still allowed family members to come from East Texas and live with her as they adjusted to a new city. 

But of course, some of her lifestyle is about the money she’s able to save by not taking on a monthly rent or mortgage payment. 

Hunter believes everyone should have “f*ck you money,” which she describes are funds that allow you to better control your life and have the power to leave situations: jobs, relationships, and living arrangements.

When it comes down to it, she’s working on paying off $30,000 in student loan debt, following her professional passions, traveling often, and helping out her family when they need it. Maybe that is actually freedom.

  • Joi Louviere

    Joi Louviere is the community editor for Courier DFW. She’s a seventh generation Texan and world traveler, passionate about college access, DIY projects and trying out all the coffee shops in Dallas.

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