Some GTA college students being paired with seniors with extra space amid housing crisis

Some GTA college students being paired with seniors with extra space amid housing crisis

Some Canadian post-secondary institutions are looking to pair up students with seniors who have extra living space in response to rising rent prices.

Two schools in the GTA, Humber and Sheridan colleges, have both recently entered into a partnership with a new online platform called SpacesShared, which matches older adults with spare rooms in their home with students in need of affordable housing.

Each SpacesShared match has its own unique rules but in some cases students receive a discount on rent in exchange for helping out with small tasks like taking the trash to the curb, shoveling, or other yard or home maintenance duties.

As part of this agreement, the schools in turn promote SpacesShared to their student population, distribute pamphlets, and host info sessions.

Once a student signs up for the platform the team at SpacesShared then does background checks and works to match them with a suitable host.

The team at SpacesShared also does ongoing monthly “match maintenance” check-ins to ensure matches remain successful.

Humber, which has two campuses in Etobicoke, officially partnered with the intergenerational home-share company in June 2023, while Sheridan, which is located in Brampton, Mississauga, and Oakville, started working with them late last year.

SpacesShared was unable to say how many students have signed up so far in Toronto, but did say that it is seeing “great interest” in the platform.

Ian Crookshank, Humber College’s Dean of Students, said that the housing needs of their pupils vary and it was important that Humber provide them with more options.

“Multiple options are important. We need students to be able to make a choice that works for them. … Students are looking for affordability and it may not be across the road,” he said.

“(SpacesShared) offers us the opportunity to increase the amount of student housing in a relatively short time.”

Crookshank said that Humber, which is currently building a 300-bed residence, wants to construct more housing but that takes a lot of time and money.

“It’s not going to help students today,” he said, adding this latest partnership with SpacesShared is a way for Humber to do its “due diligence” on that file.

“The idea is to create more appropriate (housing) capacity for our students. It’s a core aspect of post-secondary learning success.”

SpacesShared was launched in 2023 and is currently working with about 15 colleges and universities across Canada. It has roughly 2,500 students and 500 hosts registered on its platform.

Founder and CEO Rylan Kinnon told that he came up with the idea after doing consulting work for Colleges Ontario on student mental health. As part of that process, he said that he heard he heard time and time again that the top concern affecting students’ wellbeing is their housing situation, notably affordability.

Kinnon said it made sense to pair these two demographics as there are thousands of older adults across the country who do not want to or cannot leave their home, community, and/or support system, but may need or benefit from a little support or extra income to remain in place.

A recent report by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation also found that a large proportion of seniors are choosing to age in their home rather than sell it, which is contributing to the country’s housing supply shortage.

“(SharedSpaces) is a response to the needs we were hearing from students and the needs of older adults. … We saw these relationships as a win-win,” Kinnon said.

“There are million of empty bedrooms in Canada. … This is about leveraging a resource we have.”

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