Berkeley ranks as most expensive college town in US, according to Realtor.com

Tim Hyon/Staff

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Berkeley ranked the highest of 300 cities throughout the country as the most expensive college town, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The association’s official website, Realtor.com, published the rankings Tuesday and ranked more than 300 college towns by median home price, listing the top 10 most expensive and least expensive areas throughout the nation.

In determining which cities were the most expensive college towns, the association used two criteria: first, that the area had more than 5,000 student residents and second, that these students composed more than 20 percent of the town’s population.

From that information, the association found that the median home price in Berkeley was $849,000, ranking the city as No. 1, followed by Santa Cruz, California, and Boulder, Colorado. The least expensive college city was Muncie, Indiana, with a median home price of $77,900, followed by Charleston, Illinois, and Macomb, Illinois.

But the listings are no surprise to UC Berkeley’s students or the city of Berkeley, which have had ongoing conversations about alleviating the city’s high cost of living.

According to Igor Tregub, vice-chair of the city’s Housing Advisory Commission, members of the workforce in the private sector are increasingly unable to find housing in San Francisco because there isn’t sufficient supply. Instead, these workers tend to reside in surrounding Bay Area neighborhoods.

“Berkeley has benefited from positive changes made in San Francisco but has also suffered from afflictions of the displacement that is endemic to the Bay Area,” Tregub said.

John Ellis, a UC Berkeley city and regional planning lecturer, agreed that houses are not being built fast enough to accommodate workers seeking housing in the Bay Area.

Ellis added that current policies complicate the process of building homes in Berkeley.

For instance, California’s Proposition 13, a tax reform act capping property tax increases at 2 percent a year, deters the city from building residential homes because developers benefit more from expanding commercial developments.

The Housing Advisory Commission is reviewing solutions for surging housing prices, including a mitigation fee, which fee developers can pay in lieu of making a certain number of units as low-income housing and is assessed per unit of rental housing. Originally, the fee was set at $28,000 but has since been temporarily discounted to $20,000 by City Council.

Another solution, proposed by Ellis, is the construction of micro-units, or properties that measure about 220 square feet in total. Ellis said micro-units are a compact and affordable living option.

Mijoo Kim, a UC Berkeley sophomore, said developing affordable housing is important, especially for students who already struggle with paying tuition.

“I used to live in SoCal, and I remember that a one-bed apartment was less than $2,000 and homes were easily found,” Kim said. “Here, you’re very lucky to even find a house.”

Contact Jennifer Kang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @jennikang.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Igor Tregub as the chair of the Housing Advisory Commission. In fact, he is the vice chair of the commission.

A previous version of this article also incorrectly stated that the Affordable Housing Mitigation Fee is the fee developers have to pay before building a house. In fact, the fee, which developers can pay in lieu of making a certain number of units as low-income housing, is assessed per unit of rental housing.

A previous version of this article also incorrectly stated that the mitigation fee may potentially increase from $28,000 to $34,000. In fact, although the fee was originally set at $28,000, it has since been temporarily discounted to $20,000 by City Council.