It’s an idea that has clear potential, albeit with the odd pitfall as well. But for older homeowners and students looking for a less expensive place lay their heads, it could wind up being a win-win situation.
Home Share Newfoundland and Labrador is setting up a service matching students needing housing with homeowners who have extra room — and who could use either some extra money, or some extra help.
Under the plan, homeowners would rent space for below the current market rates, and in some cases, let the students do help around the house in exchange for part of the rent. It’s a plan that’s getting support from all three levels of government, and is meant to address the growing gap between students and affordable housing.
In other jurisdictions, homeowners have reported that having the younger tenants makes them feel safer and less lonely in their own homes. But while homeowners may be sacrificing some of their privacy, students may find they sacrifice something as well.
Simply put, home sharing will not be for everyone: students seeking a more lively university experience may not want to move away from home and into something that, once again, feels a bit like their parents’. At the same time, with low vacancy rates and high rents, many students simply don’t have the option to turn their backs on anything that makes housing a little more affordable.
For older residents, a little help might be just the thing: earlier in the year, when the City of Mount Pearl began rolling out its automated garbage collection trucks, several commenters pointed out the difficultly the large wheeled garbage bins would present for older residents in the winter.
Maybe, as a student, you moved away so you wouldn’t have to take out the trash — but maybe, after a few months trying to pay for things on your own, taking out the trash once a week doesn’t look like such a bad thing after all. And a home away from home could wind up looking like a fine thing indeed.
It’s a program about making resources fit with needs: there are plenty of people in St. John’s living in homes they have outgrown — or, more to the point, homes that, as children leave and families change, have outgrown them.
Large homes with plenty of empty space still have to be cared for, heated, and have costs like municipal taxes to be paid.
A little home matchmaking — carefully fitting the right students with the right homeowners, all with clear ground rules so that no one feels exploited or trapped in a situation that doesn’t suit them — could go a long way to ensuring that available housing resources are matched up with clear needs.
And who knows?
It might be a whole different learning experience for everyone involved, and something that student and homeowner end up remembering quite fondly.