Off-Campus Housing Assistance (OCHA) Policy

The Off-Campus Housing Assistance (OCHA) Office helps students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other affiliates of Columbia University ("Columbia") find rental housing in non-Columbia buildings in the metropolitan area. The OCHA Office maintains an online searchable database known as the Housing Registry for owners, brokers, management companies and tenants to list apartments and rooms for rent.

Reason(s) for the Policy

The OCHA Office maintains this service primarily to assist students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other affiliates of Columbia who are not assigned to or do not want to live in Columbia housing.

Primary Guidance To Which This Policy Responds

The policy protects the University’s rights under New York law and is designed for the benefit of the University.

Who is Governed by This Policy

All users of the services are governed by this policy.

Who Should Know This Policy

All users of the services should know this policy.


The Off-Campus Housing Assistance (OCHA) Office helps students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other affiliates of Columbia in their search for rental housing in non-Columbia buildings located in the metropolitan area.


Columbia does not screen listers (owners, brokers, management companies, or tenants) nor does it inspect or approve the accommodations listed in the Housing Registry, and, thus, cannot verify the accuracy of the descriptions of any of the listed accommodations. Listing of accommodations does not constitute a recommendation of any lister or accommodation by Columbia, and Columbia assumes no responsibility whatsoever in connection with the rental agreement between the tenant and the landlord.

The OCHA Office reserves the right, but does not have the obligation, to remove or modify any listing for any reason. All listings in the Housing Registry should comply with any applicable Columbia policies and procedures as well as any otherwise applicable city, state, and federal statutes and regulations, including those governing equal opportunity and non-discriminatory access to housing. The Housing Registry will not knowingly include a listing that violates such policies, procedures, statutes and regulations.


The OCHA Office offers its services free of charge. The OCHA Office does not act or operate as a real estate or rental agency. Some of those listed in the Housing Registry, however, may charge fees such as commissions and application fees. Listers who charge a fee to rent their units must clearly disclose it along with the amount when placing the listing. Listers who charge a fee without clearly disclosing it will have their listings cancelled and will not be allowed to list apartments or rooms in the future.

Eligibility to Search the Housing Registry and Use Services

Students, faculty, staff, alumni, and other affiliates of Columbia University, Barnard, and Teachers College may use the services of the OCHA Office. Students of Jewish and Union Theological Seminaries who are currently cross-registered at Columbia are also eligible.

The Housing Registry can be accessed with a UNI and password. Those who visit the OCHA Office must bring current Columbia identification, a letter of acceptance or appointment, proof of employment, or current alumni card.

Eligibility to List Rooms or Apartments in the Housing Registry

Anyone is free to list available housing with the OCHA Office provided they:

  • agree to abide by any applicable Columbia policies and procedures as well as any otherwise applicable city, state, and federal statutes and regulations, including those governing equal opportunity and non-discriminatory access to housing
  • are authorized to rent the accommodation

The Housing Registry does not include listings of Columbia-owned or Columbia-assigned accommodations. Anyone who wants to sublease their Columbia accommodation must do so in the Subletting Registry database and not in the Housing Registry database.


The Associate Vice President of Residential and Commercial Operations is the Responsible Officer for reviewing and maintaining the policies and procedures of the OCHA Office.

Counseling Procedures

OCHA staff are available during office hours to assist with the search for rental housing. Staff respond to in-person, telephone and email requests and conduct apartment-hunting workshops for groups upon request. Information can be found on the Columbia Residential website, and searchers are encouraged to use this resource. Topics covered include, the importance of written lease and roommate agreements, verifying that a lister is authorized to rent the accommodation, types of rentals, methods of accommodation searching, the relevance of location, transportation issues, the timing of an accommodation search, and financial considerations.

Housing Registry Searching Procedures

Searchers need a Columbia UNI and password to gain access to the Housing Registry database, which can be accessed through on the Columbia Residential website.

Searchers can create one or more search profiles and receive email notification whenever new listings match the profile. Searchers contact the lister by telephone or email.

Housing Registry Listing Procedures

Listings are displayed on the internet in the Housing Registry. The most efficient way to submit listings is by establishing an online account. The OCHA Office provides assistance to those who do not have access to the internet.

To establish an account to post listings online, listers call the OCHA Office at (212) 854-2773. Staff screen callers over the telephone to verify that they are authorized to list the accommodation and to explain the applicable procedures and policies. The OCHA Office assigns a username, password, and posting password to the lister. The lister is advised to save this login information because it is valid for future use.

Once a lister has a login, they can follow the online instructions for listing a unit. The listing appears on the internet within 1-2 business days. All listings are posted for 3 weeks or until the lister removes or directs removal of the listing, or the OCHA Office determines, in its sole discretion, that the listing should be removed. Listings may be renewed, removed or modified at any time directly by listers with online accounts.

Listers have a choice of being contacted by potential tenants by email, telephone or both. Email addresses are kept confidential. A potential tenant will only be able to see a lister's email address if the lister writes back to the potential tenant.

University Housing Policy – Morningside Heights

Students, faculty and staff who live in University housing may apply to Columbia Residential for permission to sublet their accommodations. The OCHA Office oversees the Subletting Registry, a searchable database exclusively for students, faculty and staff to list their Columbia housing accommodations. This database is separate from OCHA's Housing Registry database, which does not accept listings of Columbia accommodations.


Listers - anyone or any entity placing a listing in the Housing Registry database, including landlords, owners, real estate brokers, management companies, or tenants.