Service matches UC Berkeley students with seniors, increases available housing

Isabella Ko/Staff

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Berkeley Home Match is looking to house at least 100 graduate students, postdoctoral scholars or visiting scholars in need of housing with home-owning UC Berkeley retirees.

The program — which began accepting applications in December 2018 — published the Berkeley Home Match Year 1 report this November, summarizing its months of collaboration with Ashby Village, a network for the elderly in Berkeley, and the UC Berkeley Retirement Center, as well as several other organizations.

The service, according to Andy Gaines, executive director of Ashby Village, will help the aging community as well as the students in need of housing.

“A lot of our members … they were recognizing they were getting older,” Gaines said. “Many of them had wonderful homes but saw challenges that were coming, and we saw home sharing as a possibility for how they might A, make some income, and B, get some support.”

The matching service has allowed students to pay nearly 45% below the local average cost of a room in a home, while allowing retirees to accrue about $1000 monthly, according to the report.

The service takes on the responsibility of matching students with retirees through a pool of applicants, and also performs background and credit checks. According to Gaines, the elderly have slowly begun to express an interest in the partnership.

“I think it’s just a growing swell of interest in it because it’s been really successful,” Gaines said. “There’s been several matches where people have been really delighted in the relationships they’ve built and appreciate the income.”

Xavier Johnson, chair of the Berkeley Housing Advisory Commission, said the commission submitted a similar pilot proposal to City Council in 2018. He suggested house matching could potentially lower the rate of unit turnover, which could keep Berkeley’s rent prices from rising.

Because of the Costa-Hawkins rent control law in California, landlords can increase rent on a unit once all its tenants move out, regardless of whether or not a unit is rent controlled, according to Johnson. He added that students tend to move in and out of apartments often, which allows for more rent increases. House sharing could help alleviate rent costs in the city, since there would be less turnover each year as students seek to find new housing.

Johnson listed several cons around home sharing, however, such as a landlord living in close proximity with a tenant and the challenges around a generational gap. He added that the commission didn’t consider it a long-term solution.

“Certainly it could house hundreds of people, if not thousands in the city of Berkeley because there’s a lot of space that could otherwise be utilized,” Johnson said.

Contact Devaki Dikshit at [email protected] and follow them on Twitter at @DevakiDevay.