Report: Berkeley high in renter satisfaction

Anna Vignet/Senior Staff
Kaylee Baker, a former resident of the Gaia apartment building, moves out after one year. Gaia is part of Berkeley's apartment offerings, which were rated the best in terms of renter satisfaction.

Affordable housing and convenient public transportation are among several stated attributes that made Berkeley the number one college town countrywide in terms of renter satisfaction, according to a report released by the website Apartment Ratings last Thursday.

The site’s second annual report, which ranked cities across the country that are home to 100 four-year institutions, compiled results from apartment reviews submitted from January to December 2010 on the website — the largest user community review site for rental properties. With more than 178 reviews from 63 apartments, Berkeley takes the top spot from Davis, Calif., last year’s winner, but both are ranked above other popular college towns, including Buffalo, N.Y., and Ann Arbor, Mich.

“People can go read about apartments, and there is a functionality for apartment owners to interact with vendors and people giving feedback,” said Ben Meyer, the director of content for Internet Brands, the parent company of Apartment Ratings. “This is not a sample survey — we took actual data from people living in apartments, and we averaged feedback from about 100 or so buildings per city.”

The company was able to isolate the top 100 college cities with the most feedback for specific apartment complexes. This is Berkeley’s first year to be included in the report, since it had less than 10 apartment reviews on the site last year.

“It’s fascinating that in one neighborhood, one building can have so many positive reviews and another building can have so many negative reviews,” said City Councilmember Kriss Worthington. “It’s a testament to the openness of the site — it doesn’t delete anything negative to appease landlords.”

The report also considered factors such as the pedestrian and bike-friendly nature of cities as well as accessibility to campus and cleanliness of apartments. Berkeley Housing Advisory Commission Chair Vincent Casalaina attributed the city’s top ranking to its rent stabilization law, which provides tenants with increased protection against evictions and intends to provide affordable housing, though he said it lends to negative landlord practices.

“I think that the rent stabilization law is the primary reason that Berkeley is more tenant-friendly,” Casalaina said. “But it works against good maintenance of buildings — there is really very little that a landlord has to do other than maintain the health and safety code, because there is no return on investment if they were going to upgrade windows or insulation to make those buildings more livable, more greener.”

ASUC Executive Vice President Christopher Alabastro, who lives in the Gaia Building Apartments on Allston Way — a top-reviewed apartment complex in Berkeley — said his housing company is “responsive and accessible in service.”

“Once, there was an issue with uninvited people entering the building,” Alabastro said. “When the tenant community brought the issue to the housing company, they installed security cameras and a security guard for the school year.”

According to Casalaina, Berkeley’s dense concentration of students as well as the proximity of student housing to campus is the reason for its constantly changing housing environment, which can lead to a downward pressure on rent prices.

“There is a big turnaround in the rental market — last year, there were vacant units in larger apartment buildings, and there was a fair amount of downward pressure on rent, which hasn’t happened in a long time,” said Casalaina.

A version of this article appeared in print on Thursday, June 2, with the headline “Report: city high in renter satisfaction.”