Student Family Housing at UC Berkeley

Archived Q&A and Reviews

General Questions about Student Family Housing

June 1999

My partner and I are considering moving into family student housing with our 4-month-old daughter so that we might be able to afford for mom to work less (or not at all) while I finish school. I have a few specific questions and would also like to solicit peoples' experiences of the pros and cons (beyond what's on the web page). We're mostly interested in Albany Village, because I don't think we have much of a chance of getting into Smyth Fernwald anytime before I graduate.

--I actually favor living in Albany over Smyth, b/c it is closer to stores, has more playing space for the children, offers courtyards that allow for easy supervision and contact with neighbors, as well as gardening plots and a gym with weight room and classes for children. Its distance from campus is also a plus, smthg that seems counter to common sense, but it strengthens

1) Do you have to be married if you are both the legal parents of your child? All the Housing and Dining literature is vauge on this point and their phone always rings to voicemail. Obviously if you are a childless couple, you have to be married to be eligible. But what about unmarried parenting couples? My partner and I happen to be a mixed gender couple, but we were wondering if you are required to be married, how the policy deals with gay and lesbian parents.

--I had to face that same problem at another UC family and grad student housing complex. My companion was expecting and we were not yet married. To get in, I wrote an appeal letter and provided documentation (proof of pregnancy, common account statement, copies of documents proving how long we had been together).

Now the simple fact is that a single registered student parent is entitled to a two bedroom, the same as what a couple with one child gets. So if one of you (the student) can get the lease and deal with the responsibility, the other can move in and no one has to notice. This of course can cause tension in a relationship (having to cheat), but sometimes that is the only way to get past bureaucracies that don't understand.

To my knowledge, the policy on couples is that they indeed have to be married, which in theory precludes gay and lesbian couples from getting family housing, but see above for the case of single parents. I also suspect that with the new units being built and the sharp increase in rents, as well as the demographics and the changes in the concept of family and activism, that housing for older students, not just graduates, will tend to model itself on shared rental (roommate) arrangements such as they exist on other UC campuses. In this case, a gay or lesbian couple could share an apt if they are both students at the same time.

2) How long after you graduate do you have to move out? Immediately? or is there a grace period?

--The $6,000 question. Let's just say there is a policy in place that claims one must be registered full time or move out within a month or so of losing that status. But I have seen families extend their stay here for far (and I mean FAR) longer than that. There has apparently been a clampdown on such situations with the redevelopment and attendant shortages, but the key, in my expce, is still a good relationship with the right people in Housing Assignments. And never forget to keep calling if you have not yet been assigned a unit, the waiting list somehow gets far shorter when you make your self known.

3) What are peoples opinions about the different sections at Albany Village? We are kind of concerned that the Codornices apartments don't have bath tubs. That seems bad enough with two bath-loving adults, but intolerable with an infant.

--Section A apts are quite small, but you save a lot on rent. Section B ones might be more comfortable, especially if you have a lot of stuff. The bathtub with shower is also a factor in one's choice as well as the lead painting in section A apts. If you chose a section A, you can surely find a plastic tub to wash your baby in; I would be more preoccupied with the paint.

4) What about the lead paint?

The last time Village kids were tested for lead, on a voluntary basis, only one tested positive, I think, but contact the Office for detailed info (526-8505). Two years ago, the one child who tested positive had gotten in contact with lead outside of the Village.

5) I understand that Housing and Dining arranges tours, but like I said, I haven't had much luck getting them on the phone. I wonder if anyone (preferably in a 2-bedroom unit) would be willing to give an informal tour some weekend?

--Visit the whole Village and walk around. On first sight it looked terrible to me, but the ever rehashed line on it, even though I think it is used as an excuse for subpar management, is true, that this is a great place to make friends and a nice community for kids to grow up in. It exemplifies what people mean when they talk about sense of community.

I just read the letter from the person who had all sorts of questions about Family Student Housing. Her complaint was the phone always goes to voicemail. Although I am in a different unit in housing (I work in Community Living, which is off-campus housing), I just wanted to say that this time of year is getting to be our busiest in all areas of housing and we are responding to literally HUNDREDS of calls each day. The chances are, if you get the voicemail, it's because the staff is already on the phone and the call went to voicemail because there are so many people calling in! If you leave a message on the voicemail, you will eventually get a call back. Try it! Leave some good times when you are available for a call back. You just have no idea how incredibly busy it is for folks in housing from now through the summer, just when the academic departments are winding down!
June 1999

To the undergrad who is looking for housing. First, my sympathy. Apartment hunting for student-parents is very difficult--probably more than it should be.

Our family spent 18 months on the waiting list for family housing in the village. And it was only after we had lived there a couple of years that we learned that frequent inquiries about the status of one's name on the list served to make a difference in how quickly one moves up on the list. (We had just meekly waiting for our turn!) At least I know this policy was in effect at some point because a friend of ours was told thsi by the village office. So, my advice is to begin calling into the Village housing office on a weekly basis like clockwork. Be certain to let them know if you are willing to take a one-bedroom apt. until a two-bedroom one becomes available.

I also spent some time working for a graduate dean on campus. Often, she would receive pleas for help from grad students in your shoes who were desperate to find housing. Usually one call from her and the Village was able to accommodate the student. I think they may keep a few apartments on hand for just such emergencies. This was a graduate dean, and I am not sure if there is an undergraduate counterpart, but maybe the dean of your college could intervene for you. I'd start with a respectful phone call to the dean's secretary/assistant and then be prepared to follow up with a letter explaining your dilemma and the steps you have taken so far. If you feel you can't approach the dean, try the chairman of the department you will be entering.

This may not be the most useful advice for solving the immediate problem, but anything that gets you into the village faster will save you money in the long run and will be worth the effort. I only hope I have not passed on any heresay.

One last note--if you make it into the village but find you have a really crappy apartment--don't hesitate to put your name on a different, internal waiting list for a newer apartment. The rent will be higher, but the apartment will be a bit nicer. It just depends on what you need.

Good luck,

Hello. I wanted to report back that I responded personally to the undergraduate student who was having trouble looking for a rental with her child. I also wanted to let UCB parents know that, if you are using Community Living to look for housing, I am always willing to see if we can strategize together on housing searches--there may be some extra thing that can be done to expedite the process. And yes, it is correct that it is illegal to deny someone housing because s/he has kids. Fair Housing may have a thing or two to say to that landlord!! It's a tough market out there and I am always willing to help.
Becky White
Faculty & Community Housing
Housing & Dining Services