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

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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.