Alarming rises in rent make UC Berkeley less accessible

coloredited_williambennett_housing
William Bennett/Staff

Recently, The Daily Californian published an article indicating that rent prices in Berkeley are steadily increasing as per research done by the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board. Last year, their survey of 170 units showed that initial market rents were up to 3.5 times higher than the rental rates were after stabilization. Perhaps even more alarmingly, they found that there has been a 7.5 percent increase in year-by-year rent prices. Jay Kelekian, the executive director of the rent board, expressed concern about the recent, more dramatic increase in rent and went as far as to say that the unexpected downward trend shown by some online rental listing sites such as Zumper may be part of a “concerted effort to manipulate students into believing there’s no reason to be outraged.” A 7.5 percent increase on the UC Berkeley Financial Aid Office’s off-campus housing cost of $13,256 is almost a $1,000 increase per year.

Since the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act of 1995, rent control in the city of Berkeley has been weakened in many significant ways. The law exempts certain types of residential units — including newly constructed units– from falling under rent control ordinances. It further prohibits any type of “vacancy control” — a city ordinance that would limit a landlord’s ability to increase rents for new tenants. Just two weeks ago, AB 1506 — a California state bill that would have repealed the Costa-Hawkins act — failed in the California State Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee. Some opponents of the Costa-Hawkins act repeal cite that it would make building residential units less profitable, and therefore less attractive to developers. But studies have show that’s not the case.

In 2016, according to the UC Berkeley Housing Survey preliminary results, 52 percent of transfer students and more than 40 percent of freshmen were either concerned or very concerned about finding affordable housing while being students at UC Berkeley. One undergraduate respondent to the survey explained that they live in West Oakland “because a two month search for affordable and livable options in Berkeley proved to be unfruitful.” Other students live in Emeryville, or even as far as Richmond, because there just is not enough affordable housing available for students in Berkeley.

Many students will only be renting in Berkeley — if they are even able to find housing — for four years or less. This creates a consistent enough tenant turnover rate to allow landlords to inflate rent through vacancy-decontrol policies: New tenants will be moving in at least every four years, and many students actually move apartments more than once while at UC Berkeley. Thus, as a result of the Costa-Hawkins act, even though rent control exists on paper for some students, they reap little to none of the important benefits. The issue of landlords taking advantage of student turnover is further exacerbated by the fact that newer buildings around campus are not subject to rent control rules. While students are struggling to secure basic needs such as housing and food security, these policies create further difficulties for students trying to secure a place to live in Berkeley.

Students starting at UC Berkeley as first years and junior transfers have to quickly learn to navigate classes, financial aid, and mental health, among many other things. Since new students are no longer guaranteed on-campus housing near campus, increasing numbers of students are being forced to search for housing in an unfamiliar place even before their first day of school. With rent rising consistently and students ranking price and proximity as the two most important factors when searching for housing, students are faced with making difficult choices and end up having to choose between living significantly further from campus — thereby reducing accessibility to campus resources — or figuring out how to pay higher rents through working or taking out student loans. Regardless of whether landlords are intentionally taking advantage of students, the impact on students’ experiences and well-being is overwhelmingly negative.

The “More Student Housing Now Resolution” city resolution, which was introduced by Councilmembers Kriss Worthington and Kate Harrison and Mayor Jesse Arreguín and was passed last Tuesday, takes tangible and clear steps to increase affordable housing for students through collaboration between the city of Berkeley and UC Berkeley administration. While such local actions are essential to alleviating the affordable student housing crisis, steps must simultaneously be taken to restructure rent ordinances in order to ensure that students living off-campus in residential units do not continue to suffer the burden of increasing rent rates.

Rising rent makes our university less accessible and our city less affordable for students.

 

Nuha Khalfay is an ASUC senator and a UC Berkeley junior studying public health.

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  • I love Trump!!!

    The best way to make housing scarce is to institute rent controls. Rent controls result in less rental units and more owner occupied units.

  • That Guy

    Why not build housing at tweaker’s park?

    • NIMBY CLUB

      because nimbys

  • dwss5

    Op-Ed quote:

    Since the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act of 1995, rent control in the city of Berkeley has been weakened in many significant ways. The law exempts certain types of residential units — including newly constructed units– from falling under rent control ordinances. It further prohibits any type of “vacancy control” — a city ordinance that would limit a landlord’s ability to increase rents for new tenants. Just two weeks ago, AB 1506 — a California state bill that would have repealed the Costa-Hawkins act — failed in the California State Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee. Some opponents of the Costa-Hawkins act repeal cite that it would make building residential units less profitable, and therefore less attractive to developers. But studies have show that’s not the case.

    All excellent points which just go to show that weakening and eliminating rent control WILL NOT lower the alarmingly high costs of housing in Berkeley, despite what the Market-Rate Developers and politically-strong Property Management groups would have you all believe with their Statistics 101 figures.
    I happen to think that the alarming rises in rental costs all around Berkeley, for Cal students in particular, are primarily due to
    1) the glut of single professionals and small families (yep, them thar GENTRIFIER$!) grabbing-up local property as they flee the even higher costs of rentals in SF and Silicon Valley
    2) an almost-yearly INCREASE in the number of undergrads now admitted to Cal

    • Matthew Barnes

      Sooo. More demand should lead to higher prices.
      Hmmm. It doesn’t work that way in North Korea or Venezuela.
      Perhaps you might consider moving.

  • hoapres

    UC Berkeley needs to get out of undergraduate education.

    • Caterina Sforza

      California should shift undergraduate education and funding to CSU.

      • hoapres

        The other UCs not being Berkeley can concentrate on undergraduate studies.

        • dwss5

          hoapres wrote:
          “The other UCs not being Berkeley…”

          I’m thinking that another good undergrad UC “not being Berkeley” somewhat close to Silicon Valley and its techie jobs is UC Santa Cruz.
          The next one further out is UC Davis, but I don’t think that so many people chose to go that far inland there from the Bay Area.

          • hoapres

            Clearly if UC Berkeley doesn’t offer an undergraduate degree then undergraduates will have to go somewhere else.

            That’s the whole point.

            Berkeley gets $50 Million for the Simons foundation theoretical computer science institute which is find but those people have to LIVE somewhere. Undergraduates are disposable in this case. Simply do your undergraduate somewhere else and UC Berkeley can concentrate on graduate studies.

  • Watson Ladd

    If we want to lower rents, we can do it by adding more housing. It’s a shame you didn’t investigate how the current council has been slowing the pace of housing construction and the regional origins of the housing crisis.

  • Man with Axe

    The article doesn’t mention supply, which is negatively affected by rent control.

    If the government stayed out of the market, and allowed it to function naturally, the supply would rise to meet the demand at a market price. Instead, because of rent control, the supply fails to rise, the demand rises faster, and there is a shortage. Prices remain low but few units are available.

    This is the classic progressive answer to a supply and demand issue. The price of the housing you cannot get is nice and low. Meanwhile, in the real world, the price of the housing you can get is still quite high. Imposing even more restrictions on the market will exacerbate the problem.

  • the solution is less rent control, and building more new housing

  • djman

    So, 40 years of rent control hasn’t worked and the only answer you have is more and harsher rent control?

    Wake up people, you’re being bamboozled here.

    • Matthew Barnes

      It’s Berkeley. They’re still protesting the Vietnam War.

      • dwss5

        Matthew Barnes wrote:
        “They’re still protesting the Vietnam War.”

        No, “they” are instead trying to continually SQUASH opinions they disagree with, e.g., those of those dagnammit Berkeley College Republicans!
        Just check out TheDailyCal’s BCR tag http://www.dailycal.org/tag/berkeley-college-republicans/ to see how this is so.

  • Caterina Sforza

    Hey, I have an idea! If you want affordable housing don’t live in the Bay Area.

    In some areas along the coast like the Bay Area the cost of housing is EXTREMELY high. Costs are lower up north in places like Eureka and Arcata. Housing in the inland areas such as Sacramento, Merced, etc. is
    affordable. San Luis Obispo is more affordable than the Bay Area.

    If you are a student check out housing costs around:
    – Cal Poly http://www.calpoly.edu/
    – UC Merced http://www.ucmerced.edu/

    • merced is also totally crime ridden

      • Caterina Sforza

        Oakland has more crime than Merced.

    • Watson Ladd

      Do you live here? Our high housing prices are a choice we made.

    • hoapres

      I agree with you. UC Berkeley gets LOTS of monies for new research centers but is still spending time teaching undergraduates. Get rid of undergraduates and you just solved a big part of the problem.

      • Caterina Sforza

        The quality of undergraduate education at UC Berkeley is not good now and will further degrade in the future as enrollment increases. At Berkeley the student-faculty ratio is very high and many courses are taught by graduate TAs.

        • hoapres

          The UC Berkeley (maybe mostly STEM) students make the school at the undergraduate level. It is so tough to get into Berkeley that poor undergraduate education isn’t going to be a factor.

          That’s why I think UC Berkeley should dump undergraduate education. Berkeley gets LOTS of monies for research institutes, etc. The Bay Area is simply overcrowded and you can’t have everybody living here. Get rid of the undergraduates and concentrate on graduate studies.

    • NIMBY CLUB

      That’s great if you want to get a job trimming marijuana.