Of the approximately 30,000 students at
Berkeley (21,358 undergraduates, 8,439 graduate students), only about 5,000
live in residence halls and 5,000 in affiliated housing (sororities, fraternities,
co-ops, I House, boarding houses). Less than 5 percent live at home.
The rest either must, or choose to, find their own rental housing in
a very tight market. About 55 percent of undergraduates live in off-campus
The University's Community Housing office at 2405 Bowditch Street (Department of Housing & Dining Services)
provides an invaluable resource for these house-hunters. Up to 10,000 landlords
advertise vacancies there each year, and the service is far cheaper than
local commercial competitors. It's also the most popular place for student-to-student
ads seeking housemates.
Berkeley students can view listings at the housing office for $20/semester;
get two weeks of listing print-outs for $10; or receive listings via e-mail
(a new service) for $30/month.
For the approximately 3,200 dorm residents who move out after their first
year, Community Housing staff make presentations in residence halls February-April
on how to find a place to live off-campus.
Peak times for student house-hunting are the first three weeks in January
and April-August. Manager of Community Housing Becky White, '80, says it
usually takes a student three days to three weeks to find a place to live.
She advises students spending the summer in Berkeley to start looking for
housing in May. Others should visit campus in mid-July to look for a place,
or make use of listings via e-mail.
"Everyone wants a cute little studio on Northside for under $500/month,"
she notes wryly. "Shared housing is much easier to find."
The only rentals with more supply than demand are summer sublets. About
50 percent of listings are month-to-month; the rest require some kind of
lease, often 12 months.
Now that all freshmen and new transfers entering in the fall are guaranteed
campus housing, "we don't have freshmen crying in the lobby anymore
because landlords don't want to rent to them," says White. The housing
office is now used mainly by upper division and graduate students.
The Berkeley rental housing market has become even tighter and more expensive
for students recently, for two reasons, says White.
First, strict rent control has kept rents artificially low in Berkeley
since 1980. Now, however, as a result of 1995 state legislation, vacancy
decontrol is being phased in. This means that renters are even more reluctant
Second, young professionals unable to find affordable rentals in San
Francisco are competing, successfully, with students in Berkeley.
Surrounding areas remain cheaper, and the housing office sells a custom-designed
map for $2 that helps students figure commute distances.
Rents generally run $350-$475 for rooms, $450-$650 for a studio, $550-$850
for a one-bedroom apartment, $650-$1,000 for a two-bedroom, and $1,500+
for a house.
White suggests students fill out a tenant resume, provided by her office,
to give to prospective landlords. She also recommends a move-in inspection
with the landlord -- even a dated video -- to preclude any disagreements
over damages and/or security deposits upon move-out. For more information,
please call (510) 642-3642.