ASUC and CALPIRG to Launch Off-Campus Housing Review Website

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Taking a page from sites like Rate My Professors and Yelp, the ASUC and CALPIRG have teamed up to develop a website targeted at helping students review potential living spaces as they seek appropriate accommodations.

With the help of a Facebook event created last November and ongoing tabling and flyering efforts, leaders of the housing project said they have already amassed about 500 surveys from students assessing their current living situations - information which will be featured on the site when it launches late February or early March as the end-of-year apartment hunting begins.

"It's going to be more comprehensive down the road," said Kelly McDonnell, chief of staff in the ASUC Office of the President, who has been overseeing the project. "Finding an apartment is stressful, so hopefully we can help students do that."

The site is the result of a collaboration between UC Berkeley CALPIRG Chair Lucas Zucker and his roommate Michael Ellison, student portal director in the ASUC Executive Vice President's office, who appealed to their respective organizations to get the project going for support.

Ellison said he hopes the site will eventually generate enough popularity to become the premier housing site for UC Berkeley students.

"Right now we have to create a balance," Ellison said. "We know this will at first be just another site people use."

Caitlin Catalano, coordinator of the tenants' rights campaign for CALPIRG, said the site could also evolve to include listings for available spaces, as well as a forum for finding roommates.

As the launch date approaches, she said the site will embark on a "big visibility blitz" - including more Facebook events, flyering and chalking - to raise awareness among students.

"Once we focus on the advertising, it'll be huge," Catalano said. "This is a huge resource that nobody has yet."

Though the site will only be for students - McDonnell said it may require a student ID for access - landlords will be able to post information as well.

"From my knowledge, the landlords will have the ability to respond to whatever is said," McDonnell said. "But it will be clear as to who can access it."

In addition to apartments, Catalano said the site will assess any form of student living - including fraternities, sororities, student cooperatives and dormitories - as long as information on those spaces is submitted to the site.

According to Executive Vice President Nanxi Liu, the site will cost around $200 to $300 a year to maintain.

She said the student government will most likely see the creation of a paid position that will be in charge of managing the housing website.

Liu added that comprehensive housing is a service traditionally overlooked by the student government.

"This is something we should have," she said. "I don't think the university does a great job helping you find an apartment when you move off-campus."

Kate Randle of The Daily Californian contributed to this report.


J.D. Morris is the lead student government reporter. Contact him at [email protected]

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