Older people living alone urged to let out rooms to students

Pilot project by UCD students seeks to tackle accommodation crisis and loneliness

UCD campus at Belfield. A group of UCD students are trying to ease the accommodation crisis for their peers by matching them with older people seeking company at home. Photograph: Eric Luke

UCD campus at Belfield. A group of UCD students are trying to ease the accommodation crisis for their peers by matching them with older people seeking company at home. Photograph: Eric Luke

Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 14:55

An enterprising group of UCD students is trying to ease the accommodation crisis for their peers by matching them with older people seeking company at home.

Calling themselves Generation Accommodation, the organisers are holding a series of information meetings in Dublin, starting this Saturday, to attract more people to the project.

It says it aims “to solve two pressing needs in our local communities”: the shortage of student accommodation, and “the single biggest problem facing older people living alone today: loneliness”.

Roisín Lee, one of the founders of Generation Accommodation, said: “We have already had a small number of homeowners who have contacted us and are keen to take part. In terms of students, the emails and phone calls have been coming in in floods.

“A lot of them sound very desperate, pleading with us for help, saying they are stuck for somewhere to stay.”

The group cites CSO figures showing more than 35,500 pensioners are living on their own in Dublin, and it is encouraging them to consider letting a room at an affordable price.

“The elderly homeowner gains from having the company of the student and also additional benefits such as the idea of feeling safer at night knowing someone else is around, a chance to learn about new cultures and languages, and also learning how to use a computer or internet, for example.

“In the meantime, their income is increasing through the contribution payments made monthly by the student.”

 

Success

Earlier this year, the group won a social entrepreneurship prize from non-profit agency Enactus while the project was still at concept stage.

It now hopes to be able to trumpet the success of the initiative when it is profiled at a global enterprise competition in Beijing in October.

While the initiative is confined to UCD this year, the group hopes to extend it to all Dublin colleges next year and to all universities 2016.

Ms Lee, who is completing a masters in management consulting at UCD, said the six-strong project team arranged introductions and supplied a template letting contract, while also offering advice and a point of contact in case of emergency.

The group was encouraging homeowners to offer rent at about €400 a month, about €100 below market rates, but stressed it was up to people to make their own agreements.

The group asks for 10 per cent of the first month’s rent as a fee, which it says it is planning to put back into support structures, including a planned social event for homeowners and students every two months.

This would be “either a trip to UCD cinema or it could be a bingo night or just tea and coffee, to give people a chance to share their experiences”, Ms Lee said.

Information

The group has been advertising mainly through leaflet drops at churches in south Co Dublin. Its information meetings take place at the Lawrence Crowley boardroom, UCD Michael Smurfit School, Carysfort Avenue, Blackrock, each Saturday for the remainder of August from 1pm to 2pm.

For further information see generationaccommodation2014.com.

The Union of Students in Ireland has also set up a website, homes.usi.ie, to identify homeowners with a room to rent.

For the second year, Griffith College in Dublin is offering to waive tuition fees for any student whose family provides accommodation and board to an international student.

Prof Diarmuid Hegarty, president of the private college, which teaches in Dublin, Cork and Limerick, described the initiative as a “win-win”, as Irish students would not have to pay the €5,000 fees and international students would live with an Irish family in an English-speaking environment.

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