Berkeley ranks No. 1 as most expensive college town in the country

Lianne Frick/File

Related Posts

Amid a growing housing affordability crisis across California, Berkeley topped SFGate’s list of the most expensive college towns in the country.

The list ranks the top five most expensive college towns and the top five cheapest in the country. According to, a real estate listings website, Berkeley holds a median home closing price of $1.1 million, in contrast to the cheapest college towns named by SFGate, with California, a city in Pennsylvania, at $77,000 and Pittsburg, a city in Kansas, at $86,000. SFGate’s ranking is based on college towns where 20 percent of the population is enrolled in a university and is composed more than 2,000 students.

Berkeley has a population of 30.5 percent students. Berkeley tops the list among the other most expensive college towns, followed by Santa Cruz, Cambridge, Boulder and Princeton.

For campus associate professor of city and regional planning Malo Hutson, the reason for Berkeley’s status as such an expensive location rests on the lack of housing available in the area, which is tied to the larger statewide housing shortage.

“We don’t have enough housing, and then you compound (that) with a world-class university, which means all the researchers, all the students, all the people related with the university, and that creates greater demand to be closer to campus,” Hutson said.

According to campus William W. Wurster Dean and professor of city and regional planning Jennifer Wolch, the entire Bay Area housing market stands as one of the most expensive in the country, which has in part been fueled by immense growth in the area, especially in the tech industry.

“There are a lot of people who are looking for housing, and the pace of construction of affordable housing, especially, has not kept up with demand,” Wolch said.

A number of elected officials have aimed to address the lack of affordable housing in Berkeley in recent months, with state officials introducing legislation in June to allow for the creation of affordable housing statewide.

A higher population of incoming freshman and transfer students arriving on campus has also put greater pressure on the city’s housing market, Wolch said.

“I think that’s why the campus is trying to build more student housing,” Hutson said, “(to) hopefully alleviate some of the pressure in the private, rental market for housing.”

Sydney Fix is the lead schools and communities reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sydney_fix.

Please keep our community civil. Comments should remain on topic and be respectful.
Read our full comment policy
  • Free Truth

    The reality of this is very simple: too many SV know it alls destroyed San Jose and Palo Alto make it some of the most boring places on the bay area. So they decided to move. But where they go, they devastate. So SF is becoming much like Palo Alto – where I live – with no soul, no diversity of jobs and ideas, and no one other than instant billion dollar desiring wannabes. Some of the hardcore, real ones are long gone. Berkeley is next stop, and soon Oakland. Once they have eaten up the bay area with their rotten etos, I bet Los Angeles, Washington state etc will be the next stops…. Tax properly. Tax evasion allied with not paying a fair share has made it impossible for anyone but a few lottery winners to really create roots.

  • svendlarose

    Perhaps the city of Berkeley and the State of California should abandon the anti-development regulations that drive up the “cost to build” housing.

    • Free Truth

      The history and character of Berkeley are because of that… Now the new comers, frat boy brogrammers are trying to turn everything into their personal fiefdom. Get lost.

  • intranethatemachine

    Very simple thing that can help immensely: Repeal Prop 13.

    • BillStewart2017

      Prop 13 didn’t make a significant difference in housing stock, though California’s distribution of money between the state and local governments was never adequately updated to reflect it, and it affects city services. But cities have a big incentive under Prop 13 to allow people to tear down older single-family houses and build new housing at current prices – yet they don’t do enough of it, and they keep height restrictions in place so neighborhoods keep looking like suburbs instead of cities, which is cute but keeps housing expensive.

  • s randall

    According to SFGate.

    In selecting “college towns,” we chose places where 20% of the population is enrolled in an institute of higher education—at the undergraduate level and beyond. The total number of students in the town needed to be greater than 2,000. We limited the final results to two cities per state, to provide some geographic diversity.

    I would imagine the list would be filled with other California towns.