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The role mold played in the Berkley housing crisis

Each year, thousands of Berkley students move from their on-campus dorms to apartments of their own. It’s exciting, to say the least. They chose their furnishings, purchase their groceries, set their WiFi passwords, and begin their journey living in their first apartment. While it’s undoubtedly a great experience, it’s one that is often marred by a nasty and all-too-common problem: mold.

Mold covers a lot of surfaces. It’s frequently found in bathrooms, in sinks, and along window panes, but it can grow pretty much anywhere.

At Berkley – and the Bay Area, as a whole – mold is particularly pervasive. Physical conditions factor into the development of indoor mold growth; all it needs is moisture and a moderate temperature and it can thrive. Those conditions are exactly what are experienced in San Francisco. But a larger question is left unanswered: Are the factors that contributed to the massive housing crisis at Berkley also sparking the mold problem throughout the city?

The opinions about this are mixed.

The growth of fungus can occur for a few different reasons; however, the most prominent feature is high moisture levels. Locations that accumulate large amounts of water and are don’t dry out are the most likely to develop mold issues.

Professor John Taylor, a faculty member in Berkeley’s Plant and Microbial Biology department and studies fungi, says that structural issues in a property, such as leaks, are the primary cause of mold growth.

“You can’t say it enough – it’s a roof problem, a window problem, a plumbing problem, a subterranean problem, or a condensation problem,” Taylor said.

Active housing supervisor for the City of Berkeley, Angel Sindayen, inspected Berkeley homes, checking for code violations, on a regular basis. He doesn’t see the same issues as Taylor does at the heart of the mold problem. He says that if tenants were more consisted with their basic cleaning and maintenance, mold problems wouldn’t be so pervasive.

“If they don’t do their housekeeping or they don’t do their sanitary issues – let’s say, for example, younger people who are more active, they sweat a lot. They go to the gym, they exercise, they sweat a lot, and next thing you know, they put their sweaty clothes in the closet…” said Sindayen. He says that this can easily lead to mold growth.

Taylor argues that’s exactly what landlords would say; poor housekeeping is to blame. While it’s true that ineffective housekeeping can lead to mold growth, he says that the primary cause is poor maintenance, and a lot of the private student housing facilities at Berkeley are poorly maintained.

The student population in the city of Berkeley is very high, which has led to a serious housing crisis. Given the high incidence of mold growth, combined with the high student population, a housing crisis is bound to happen.

Mold Inspection & Testing San Francisco has vast experience performing mold assessments in the Bay Area. We recommend that residents of the city of Berkeley arrange for regular mold testing to ensure their safety. To speak with an MI&T representative, call 415.213.4831.

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