Where Will The Middle Class Live?

Parker Berkeley is the newest apartment house in town. This place is huge! Parker Berkeley covers a whole block plus part of the block across the street. It is not on a spiffy section of Shattuck Avenue, and it is a long way from campus, but it is walking distance to the Ashby BART station. My guess is that the owners of this building are planning to rent to commuters who work in San Francisco. The rental office is now open and here are the rents:

Studio $2,900.
One bedroom $3,400
Two bedroom $4,500
Three bedroom $6,300
Parking is extra, plus the rent is higher if you have a cat or a dog.

If these rents seem high to you, remember that rents for similar apartments in downtown San Francisco are much higher than this. Like all new apartment houses in Berkeley and San Francisco, Parker Berkeley has inclusionary apartments for the poor, but all the other apartments are rented at market rate. So here is my question. If all the new apartment houses in town only have apartments in them for the rich and the poor, then where will the middle class live? I have been asking that question for 30 years. Consider a schoolteacher who makes $70,000 a year. This teacher doesn’t make enough money to rent a market rate apartment at Parker Berkeley but makes far too much money to qualify for an inclusionary apartment. So where will this schoolteacher live? Certainly not at Parker Berkeley orĀ  any of the new apartment houses going up in Berkeley or San Francisco. America has long been a middle class society, but we are building no housing here for the middle class. None at all. Zero. Zip. What kind of society are we going to live in if we only build housing for the rich and the poor? I never, never hear local politicians talking about this issue, the complete lack of new housing for the working middle class. It never comes up. I wonder why.

Competition With My Free Chocolate Room?

I recently toured Varsity Berkeley Apartments in downtown Berkeley. This is a huge complex. The building runs across an entire block. The building is still under construction, bu they are signing leases now for occupancy in late July. The rent on 2 bedroom apartments ranges from $3,750 to $4,200 a month. Parking is extra. They are advertising these apartments as rentals for college students, hence the name ‘Varsity Berkeley’, but I wonder – how many college students can really afford to pay $4,000 a month for a 2 bedroom apartment?

What is a ‘luxury apartment’? The sales brochure says that you will ‘live in luxury’ at Varsity Berkeley. It seems like every new apartment house in Berkeley uses the word ‘luxury’ to describe their apartments, but what exactly does that mean? ‘Luxury apartment’ could mean almost anything and based on my observations, it usually just means ‘expensive.’ If there is a legal definition of the word ‘luxury’, I would like to know what it is. To be fair, Varsity Berkeley has some very nice amenities, including a spacious rooftop garden. They will also have valet garbage collection. That means they will pick up your garbage at your apartment. You won’t have to carry your garbage to a garbage can or a garbage chute. That is not a service that I provide. I do not pick up my tenants’ garbage and put it in their garbage cans for them.

varsityapartmentsVarsity Berkeley has some interesting swag at their rental office. They have free bags of gumballs with the name ‘Varsity Berkeley’ printed on the bag, but I wonder if that is enough to get people to sign leases. I always keep my eye on Berkeley landlords who give free candy to their tenants; however, I am not convinced that bags of gumballs are real competition with my free chocolate room. You know, you can buy a lot of gumballs for $4,000 a month!