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 2021, GSAC conducted a housing survey of 58 graduate students in the department and found:
Most people live with roommates in the department or other UC Berkeley graduate students.
~74% of students live in 2-4 bedroom apartments or houses.
The average CBE graduate student pays approx. $1250/month in rent, excluding utilities.
55.1% of students live within 2 miles of campus and 95% are within 5 miles.
83% consider their accommodation acceptable or better, and 43% consider it "better than expected" or "very nice".
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.
How to find a place to live
There are three common ways to find housing:
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.
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.
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.
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.
Other Important Resources
Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board