Members Speak at City Council on the Importance of the BSC

Over 30 co-opers spoke at the May 1st Berkeley City Council Meeting to show the importance of the Co-op in providing affordable housing to students with great financial need.  The BSC is presently requesting access to funding from the City of Berkeley's Housing Trust Fund. 

The Co-op: Now Needed More than Ever

We are the oldest nonprofit housing provider in the City of Berkeley, founded in the depths of the Depression, not only because Depression-era students had to choose between rent and food, but because students of color faced discrimination in the Berkeley rental housing market. Since then, successive generations of students have built the organization from its initial 14 members to our current 1285 members.

Expansion is key to our mission. Our costs are low, and students need low-cost housing. Our room and board house rates are less than half the rates of the UC Berkeley dorms. For the past three years, we have seen our Fall waiting list grow from 300, to nearly 500. That’s not surprising--our wait list always grows during periods of economic distress. But there has been a lasting structural change in the economics of attending Cal. The cost of in-state undergraduate tuition has risen by 87% since 2007, and many graduate and professional programs have had even higher rates of tuition increase. We don’t foresee see our wait list declining when the economy bounces back because of the lasting impact of these tuition changes.

The Co-op: Working with the City

City council support was instrumental to obtaining a renewal of Rochdale’s lease from the University in 2010. Due to Money for Energy Efficiency (ME2) grants, houses have new heaters that are more comfortable, reliable, and 40% more efficient. Due to energy audits that the city funded, we now have a comprehensive five-year plan to achieve sustainability.  Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding has helped us make more than half of our houses accessible to the disabled.

We are proud that several of our Co-opers have become important members of the community, including members of the City Council.  We support the Berkeley economy through contracts with local vendors, and as a provider of high quality employment.

The Co-op: Serving Low Income and Disabled Students

The BSC grants priority to Educational Opportunity Program students, who make up 35% of our population, and up to 80% in some of our units.  EOP students are in the first generation of their family to attend college and they are disproportionately low-income students of color.

We also grant a similar priority to students with verification of disability.  we have voluntarily over the past fifteen years made more than half of our cooperatives accessible to the disabled.  Since 2001, when we developed our long term plan to expand disability access on our properties, we have spent millions of dollars implementing these improvements. In past years, we have collaborated with the city in financing these projects. We also recognize that finding housing as a disabled student poses significant challenges. Our members tell us that finding accessible housing close to campus, that is affordable to students on social security is incredibly difficult. The BSC’s affordable housing expansion goals prioritize accessible housing.

The Co-op: Building for the Future

Within the past five years, the Berkeley Student Cooperative has completed the seismic retrofit and substantial rehabilitation of six buildings, serving more than 300 residents and totalling more than $17 million in third party financing. This includes two very large seismic retrofit projects--Cloyne Court ( at $8 million) and Casa Zimbabwe ( at $6.3 million). We completed these projects under very strict time and financing constraints.

The BSC has complied and is willing to comply with Davis Bacon wage requirements. We have done so in the past in receiving CDBG funds for disabled access projects and for the ME2 program. We have also preserved historical resources: Cloyne Court, for example, is on the National Register of Historic Trusts, and Kingman Hall is on the City’s landmarked properties list--we managed to substantially renovate both of those buildings at great expense ($8 million at Cloyne and $1 million at Kingman) without affecting the historic condition of those properties.