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UC Berkeley now housing students in retirees’ homes

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Matching program is in its pilot year as city dawdles over new housing

Straining to find affordable housing options for its student body, UC Berkeley has started pairing pupils with retirees in a bid to create new housing out of existing stock.

Berkeleyside reports that the pilot program, dubbed Berkeley Home Match, is small for the time being with only 24 homeowners and 62 students.

[Correction: That’s how many people applied. The number of participants is 18—nine of them students, nine of them homeowners.]

According to the school, the intent of the program is to connect UC retiree homeowners with a spare bedroom to “UC Berkeley graduate students, postdocs, and visiting scholars,” who, on average, end up paying a bit less than $1,000 per month.

On top of finding students a place to live, the university touts the pairings as a way to “support retirees planning to age in place” by providing screened renters.

It could also help eliminate the proverbial East Bay problem of seniors with largely empty homes that they’re reluctant to part with despite having more living space than they need.

Right now only official UC retirees or those who are members of the Ashby Village non-profit are eligible for the program, although it may expand in years to come.

According to the UC Berkeley chancellor’s office, “Berkeley has the lowest percentage of beds for our student body of any campus in the UC system.”

In January 2017, a university housing task force report found that to meet the school’s goal of housing half of its undergrad population and a quarter of graduate students on campus, Berkeley would need 15,600 beds, but at the time only had 8.700.

That’s enough for a mere 22 percent of undergrads and nine percent of grad students in 2016.

While the school has added more housing since then, development has proven tricky; earlier this year the Berkeley City Council voted to sue University of California to block housing on a campus parking lot.

Meanwhile, the city of Berkeley’s housing element for 2015 through 2023 lists its “estimate of new units in residential districts” during that eight-year period as only 237 new units total.

The U.S. Census estimated 47,359 total units in Berkeley in 2018—a figure fewer than the nearly 49,000 from census accounts in 2010.

These numbers have a margin of error of more than 2,000 homes, meaning that net housing gain in Berkeley is no more than a few thousand units for the decade so far.