Introduction

The housing market in the Bay Area can be difficult.

Fortunately, the department works hard to help incoming students find places to live. If you come to Berkeley, we'll help you find a place you'll want to live. Most students visit Berkeley over the summer, typically in July, to find housing.


What should you expect to pay?

In Fall 2016, GSAC conducted a housing survey of 68 graduate students in the department and found:
  • Most people live with roommates in the department or other UC Berkeley graduate students.
  • ~80% of students live in 2-4 bedroom apartments or houses.
  • The average CBE graduate student pays approx. $1000/month in rent, excluding utilities.
  • 65% of students live within 2 miles of campus and 90% are within 5 miles.
  • 90% consider their accommodation acceptable or better, and 40% consider it "better than expected" or "very nice".  

You can check out more of the results of the Fall 2014 and Fall 2015 Housing Survey.


Where to live

The majority of graduate students live inside Berkeley. A significant number of students, however, live in nearby cities and commute to campus. Descriptions of common housing locations follow. Times mentioned below are walking to the closest edge of campus.

One thing to remember is that Tan Hall is on the northeast side of campus (up the hill). You will most likely have to go up a hill of some sort to get to College of Chemistry buildings, though some newer buildings specifically for research are found on west side of campus along Oxford. Others work at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and most likely take a shuttle from downtown Berkeley up to the lab.

Berkeley

 Neighborhood   Location (see map) Distance to  Campus Description 
 South Berkeley  South of Dwight, between  Sacramento and Telegraph ~ 30 min  walking - Many houses in this area with yards
 - Popular with graduate students
 - Few shops and restaurants
 - Close to downtown and Berkeley Bowl
 - Manville Apartments located here
 Southwest Berkeley     Between University and  Alcatraz, west of Sacramento ~30-45 min  walking - Usually mid size houses and some apartment buildings
 - Many houses in this area with yards
 - Retail and dining along San Pablo
 - Typically less expensive than other areas
 Southside  Along Telegraph and west ~5-10 min  walking - Most popular with undergraduate students
 - Few CBE students live here
 - Primarily apartments and dorms
 - Not as quiet/safe as other areas
 - Ida L. Jackson and Channing-Bowditch graduate housing located here 
 Northwest Berkeley North of University, West of  Sacramento ~30-60 min  walking - Easy access to campus by bus or bike
 - Many families live here
 - Shopping and dining along San Pablo, Gilman and 4th Street
 North Berkeley North of University, East of  Sacramento ~20-30 min  walking  - Popular with graduate students
 - "Gourmet Ghetto" area, many restaurants and shops
 - Many houses in this area and some apartments
 - Typically more expensive than other areas
 North Berkeley  Hills/Kensington Northeast of campus ~ 40 min  walking - Very nice residential areas
 - Rental prices can be much more expensive than other areas
 - Parking can be difficult (steep hills!)
 Downtown/Central  Berkeley Between Sacramento and  campus, Dwight and University ~5-30 min  walking - Many bus routes in this area
 - Lost of shops and restaurants
 - Close to Berkeley BART
 - Usually apartment complexes
 Rockridge/Elmwood South Berkeley to College  Avenue ~30-45 min  walking - Very nice residential area, with commercial areas along College Ave
 - Typically more expensive than other areas
 - Close to Rockridge BART (however there is no direct service to          Downtown Berkeley)
 - Easy bus and biking options to campus

Farther Away

 City  Location Distance to  Campus Description 
 North  Oakland/Temescal South of Berkeley ~50 min walking - Many buses to campus
 - Rent can be significantly cheaper
 - Some newly renovated, nice apartments
 Albany Northwest of Berkeley ~20-30 min by  bus or  bike - No BART stations, but a number of bus routes
 - Relatively easy bicycle commute
 - Typically rent is more affordable
 - Nice shops and restaurants along Solano Ave
 - University Apartments located here
 El Cerrito North of Albany ~20-30 min by  bus or bike - Two BART stations that connect to downtown  Berkeley
 - Typically rent is more affordable
 - Some bus routes to Berkeley
 - Quite, safe community
 - Commerical areas at El Cerrito Plaza and along San  Pablo
 San Francisco Across the Bay ~ 45 min by  BART - BART can be crowded
 - most expensive area


How to find a place to live

There are three common ways to find housing:
  1. Craigslist: Craigslist is a free online bulletin board that is widely used to list housing for rent. You can search by neighborhood, and even though there's usually a little more legwork involved, most students are able to find good housing deals using this service. It is the most common method used by grad students to find housing in Berkeley. 

  2. Cal Rentals: This is a UC sponsored service that maintains a listing of apartments and houses listed by landlords. The department will provide a Cal Rentals subscription to new students to help them find housing. This website also describes on-campus housing opportunities for students as well.

  3. Staying in touch with the department/GSAC: Very often, current graduate students change apartments over the summer. Sometimes it is possible for new students to move in, either by joining the current lease, or by starting a new one. Landlords like graduate students and are often willing to continue a lease to other grad students. As we find out about grad students leaving a unit available, we can forward this information to incoming students.
If you plan to make a trip to the Bay Area to look for housing, you should plan on spending a few days (at least a weekend) in the area so that you can do a thorough search of your housing options. 

Each summer, GSAC will compile a list of current students who are willing to host perspectives while they look for housing. We have plenty of people with couches, air mattresses, and sometimes extra rooms so you do not need to stay at a hotel to find housing for your first year. Do not be afraid to ask current grad students for a night on their couch, we are here to help!

Additional considerations while looking for housing:
  • Bring your financial information (credit report), a list of references (previous landlords), and your letter of acceptance to graduate school. Landlords use this information to verify your credit and income.
    • NOTE: Often landlords will have dozens of applicants for a single unit. If you show up organized and prepared, you greatly increase your chances of being selected as a renter. 
  • You should be prepared to pay a full month's rent for August, even if you're not moving in until mid-August. 
  • Often tenants are required to pay a security deposit plus first and last month's rent upon signing a lease. Some landlords may charge an application fee. 
  • The rental market in Berkeley has a lot of turnover so it is most common to find postings for housing one month out. For example, August 1st available units are often posted beginning mid June, with the majority being posted in July. 


Graduate Student Housing and Cooperatives

Cal offers alternative housing through the University Students Cooperative Association (USCA) in the form of co-op houses and apartments, which reduces the cost of living by dividing labor (cooking, cleaning, gardening, etc.) among members. A weekly five-hour commitment is expected in the houses, while the apartments require 6-12 hours per semester.

Co-op Housing

Graduate students can live in any of the co-op houses or apartments.
The houses have what are called “open kitchens,” meaning that members may cook whatever and whenever they like; the kitchens/pantries are fully stocked with a variety of produce, frozen goods, non-perishables, and perishable goods.

Houses and apartment complexes come with various amenities, such as house computers, televisions, periodicals, decks, hot tubs, etc.  All bedrooms in apartments are single occupancy, while houses may vary.  Residence in Hillegass Parker (HIP) House and The Convent is restricted to graduate and re-entry students only.
  • Costs include food and utilities.
  • Extended/larger rooms are available at HIP House at an additional cost.
  • Prices for the apartments vary depending on the number of occupants and location.
Detailed information about cooperative housing and specific houses, including eligibility, is available from the Berkeley Student Cooperative

Graduate Student Housing

Graduate Student Housing is adjacent to the UC Berkeley campus near the dorms. The Manville apartments and Ida Louise Jackson Graduate House are available for single students. There are also options for families. Please check out UC Berkeley Graduate Housing for more information.