UC Berkeley Retirement Center pilots home-sharing program for retirees, graduate students

UC Berkeley Retirement Center pilots home-sharing program for retirees, graduate students

Photo Credits: ALLYSON KO / AGGIE

Home Match as a housing solution that could be explored for Davis

The UC Berkeley Retirement Center has started a program where retired UC Berkeley faculty can provide housing to UC Berkeley graduate students. So far, three pairs of students and retirees have been matched through the Home Match pilot program, and the pilot hopes to match three more. The vision is that the program will be mutually beneficial, saving students 10 percent in rent and offering retirees support to stay in their homes longer, with the center and its resources present to assist both parties throughout the process.

The program, developed in conjunction with the center’s partners including Ashby Village, Legal Assistance for Seniors, At Home With Getting Older, SEEDS Community Resolution Center, Transition Network Home, Covia and six others — is funded by a Chancellor’s Community Partnership Fund grant, which the center received last fall.

According to Cary Sweeney, the retirement center’s director, Covia has been a key partner in providing additional seed money, guidance and materials. Covia also has a home-sharing program for retirees that is being expanded and is not limited to only students.

The idea was also implemented in Santa Cruz, Boston and Canada, according to Sweeney. Sweeney hopes that Berkeley can offer leadership for other colleges if the program goes well but said that the “verdict is still out” regarding how adaptable the program might be for other colleges in cities with housing crises like Berkeley’s.

“We certainly have a vision of creating a model that’s scalable out to other campuses,” Sweeney said. “It just takes time and effort, so that’s what I think we’re learning. We’re six months into the program, only a couple weeks into the matches […] I think we’ll have a better sense of [adaptability] once we’re complete with the grant, which is at the end of the academic year.”

If a similar housing program were to be piloted by the UC Davis Retiree Center, the administration would be interested in supporting the program, according to Emily Galindo, the vice chancellor for student affairs at UC Davis.

“I think it’s a great option for students,” Galindo said. “It’s certainly something worth exploring. It seems like it will be a win-win for both parties, and, in fact, there are a lot of faculty and staff that routinely do provide opportunities in housing for students — I just don’t know of a formalized program.”

Galindo added that although UC Davis does not necessarily have a grant parallel to the one at UC Berkeley that the center received, the university is still interested in providing opportunities for programs like this.

“Individuals are always welcome to put forth ideas,” Galindo said.

Launching the program, however, has required a lot of time and effort, so it would be a big commitment and project for the UC Davis Retiree Center and community partners.

For Berkeley’s program, the center met with Legal Assistance for Senior and the City of Berkeley, and shared the program’s documents with stakeholders on campus for input about details and policies to consider. They have also held recruitment meetings for students and orientation sessions for homeowners and received advice from SEEDS Community Resolution Center about how to get ahead of potential conflicts.

Lou Ziskind, the director for the UC Davis Retiree Center, confirmed that a home-sharing program is not currently in the works in Davis.

“At this point in time the UCD Retiree Center has not begun any discussions about the program UC Berkeley is piloting,” Ziskind said via email.

Sweeney said that graduate student Rachel Bell  created an evaluation protocol to determine the program’s success, particularly in its emotional impacts, which could be a useful element in determining whether and how to implement it in other places.

“We hope that this will be able to show that it’s beyond the value of sort of just getting affordable rent or just having someone live with you, and that perhaps we can move the needle on levels of stress and loneliness,” Sweeney said.

Written by: Anne Fey — city@theaggie.org