As the end of summer approaches and people flock to the Bay Area to start jobs and attend college, vacant housing becomes increasingly scarce.
Berkeley is one of many East Bay cities experiencing the recent boom in rental prices and shortage in available apartments, keeping rental services busy.
“The vacancy rate is close to zero and the prices are pretty mind boggling,” said Randy Silverman, chair of the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board.
Homefinders Bulletin, an online database located in Berkeley that keeps information on the number of rentals available and the number of people looking, had 464 listings for available housing in July with 1,661 people searching for housing in Berkeley.
Dana Goodell, president of Homefinders, said that many people begin looking for an apartment in July and that the first week of August is the busiest week of the year when it comes to housing searches.
Part of this scramble for available housing has to do with the 30,000 students attending UC Berkeley, most of whom have to be accommodated by the end of the month when school starts.
“By the second or third week of August everything is filled up,” Goodell said. “This is the last chance for students to find housing.”
While college students make up most of those seeking apartments at this time of year, UC Berkeley Faculty and Community Housing Assistant Director Becky White points out that many of the students can’t afford Berkeley’s steep housing costs.
“The prices are hard on a student’s budget,” White said. “We are definitely seeing more students doubling up, more students willing to look farther away.”
UC Berkeley Faculty and Community Housing offers services to students and other people affiliated with the university who are looking for housing outside the UC dormitory system. Most of their customers are upperclass people and graduate students.
It assists over 1,200 people a day both online and in person at its south campus office.
According to East Bay rental service eHousing, during the month of July the average price of a one-bedroom apartment in South and West Berkeley was $1,164, while the average price in North Berkeley was $1,337. The average price for a three-bedroom apartment was $2,522 in South and West Berkeley and $1,920 in North Berkeley.
Beginning in 1999, the Costa Hawkins Act kicked in, making vacancy decontrol mandatory state wide. This means that when an apartment is vacant, rents can be hiked as high as a landlord feels he can raise them.
So while rent controlled the housing costs while tenants lived in an apartment, once they moved out, the landlord could set the rent at any price.
Davin Wong, the owner of eHousing, said that vacancy decontrol has caused steep price hikes last summer, resulting in fewer people looking for housing in Berkeley. But since then prices have leveled off to a more reasonable level and climbing more slowly, so more new residents are coming to Berkeley.
According to Homefinders, the average rental in Berkeley on July 31 was nine percent above what it was a year ago.
RealFacts, an agency that collects information on apartment complexes on the West Coast, recently reported that rents have increased 14 percent in Alameda County in the last three months. The RealFacts survey also reported that the vacancy rate in Alameda County during that time also fell to .6 percent.
“It’s an enormous, horrible crisis,” Goodell said. “It’s massive.”
White recommended that people searching for an apartment or studio in Berkeley keep their options varied and consider living in another nearby city until they find the right place in Berkeley.