The Hamilton Spectator

New program will pair college students with local seniors

SpacesShar­ed and Mohawk College are partnering to find alternativ­es for housing while supporting local residents

- GRANT LAFLECHE REPORTER GRANT LAFLECHE IS AN INVESTIGAT­IVE JOURNALIST WITH THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR. GLAFLECHE@TORSTAR.CA.

A novel solution to the ongoing housing and affordabil­ity crisis is coming to Hamilton and aims to pair college students with local residents who have room to spare.

Mohawk College has partnered with Toronto-based SpacesShar­ed to launch a program to create better housing options for students.

“We’ve been working over the last number of months to understand the challenges of students when they come to college and university,” said Kate Burrows, vice-president of students at Mohawk College. “One challenge is being able to access housing that’s local and safe. And we want to have different options for students.”

While the college is building new student housing, the school recognized that those buildings won’t necessaril­y provide the options or the space students need.

SpacesShar­ed offers a program that will help fill that gap, Burrows said.

Rylan Kinnon, the CEO of Spa-cesShared, said the program sees students housed with local residents. Students pay rent — although it tends to be significan­tly cheaper than convention­al student housing — and agree to help with the upkeep of the home. An agreement between the resident and the student outlines what everyone’s responsibi­lities are.

The arrangemen­t is particular­ly ideal for older homeowners, Kinnon said, who often have homes that are too big and too expensive for them to handle on their own.

“Thinking about things, especially in a post-COVID context, and thinking about the ways in which we, as a society, struggle to take care of our aging population, I thought, well, these are two population­s that have so much to offer one another,” he said “Both older adults that have extra space and students that are looking for safe, affordable space may also be looking for mentorship.”

SpacesShar­ed vets resident who wants to rent space and a host of criteria are establishe­d — from the amount of living space, dietary restrictio­ns and language — to pair them with the appropriat­e student.

The company also checks in with student and resident frequently, and has a dispute resolution process to smooth out problems if they occur. Kinnon said that the pairings don’t work out on occasion, but issues are resolved most of the time.

Burrows said the program, which is currently looking for Hamilton residents who want to provide space to a college student, is ideal for internatio­nal students and for domestic students who might be on a short course of study from another city.

Kinnon said the housing situation for internatio­nal students can be dire. They pay much higher tuition than their domestic counterpar­ts, leaving less money for a roof and a bed. As a result, they can be forced to make less than ideal choices. Sometimes, several students will opt to live in a small motel room together because it is all they can afford.

SpacesShar­ed originally reached out to the college a year ago, said Burrows, but Mohawk was reticent to partner with the then-still-new company. But in the last year, more Canadian colleges have started working with SpacesShar­ed and the success of the program prompted Mohawk to reconsider.

The program is expected to launch in Hamilton in the fall. Kinnon said those wanted to provide spaces for students can go to the SpacesShar­ed website at SpacesShar­ed.ca for more informatio­n.

 ?? CATHIE COWARD SPECTATOR FILE PHOTO ?? Mohawk College aims to create more housing options for students by partnering with SpacesShar­ed, which pairs students with local residents with extra space.
CATHIE COWARD SPECTATOR FILE PHOTO Mohawk College aims to create more housing options for students by partnering with SpacesShar­ed, which pairs students with local residents with extra space.

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