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Helping instead of paying rent

Students have little money for expensive rents; elderly people often live alone in large apartments. The concept of “Living for Help” solves both problems.

In their flat share there is a 55 years age difference: the student Hanna (23) is glad to have a room near the university; the pensioner Marlene (78) is glad to have pleasant company and help with the house and garden. Because she lends a helping hand, Hanna doesn’t have to pay rent.

“I can’t live anywhere else so inexpensively. And the work is fun.”

In German university cities, affordable housing for students is scarce. In Munich, a 30 square metres room costs an average of 634 euros per month. It is a matter of luck whether you find a place in the university dormitories or a student flat share by the beginning of the semester. On the other hand, there is a lot of unused living space: in Germany about one in three people over the age of 65 lives alone because his or her partner has died and the kids have long since moved out.

“Living for Help” in 30 cities

What is more reasonable than living communities of young and old? Such initiatives, which have combined in the Federal Association of Living for Help, exist in more than 30 cities. Students can inquire about them at the student services. The framework has now been expanded; families, single parents and people with disabilities also offer free rooms for help in the household.

“One hour help per square metre.”

Help with housework – but not caring

The basic rule is that, for each square metre of living space made available to students, they provide an hour of help per month. They don’t live completely free of charge, however, because they have to pay small amounts for utilities such as electricity, heating and water.

The kind of help provided depends on the needs of the flat or house owner; for example, it might be shopping, cleaning, cooking, garden or manual work, or keeping company on walks or playing cards. Caring and nursing are excluded. The share partners define the tasks together and set them down in a contract.

Video: “Living for Help” (in German only)

The chemistry must be right

Sounds good in theory, but in practice there are also problems, as in any living community; only here the difference between generations also plays a part. It doesn’t work without mutual openness and consideration. Therefore experienced facilitators bring together suitable share partners and advise them about the form of the contract. The experience of participants in the initiative has been mainly positive; most students and elderly feel the residential partnerships are enriching.

Overview (in German only): “Living for Help” exists in these cities

The article was originally published here and was republished with permission from Deutschland.de.

Discussion about student housing

Do you know of any similar projects where you live? Is it difficult to find housing as student? What was it like in your student days? Share your experiences in the Community group “Studium und Forschung”!

Community group

September 2017


Tangwe Abraham
15 October 2017

Living for help is an excellent overture but concerning senior students and the junior ones, are the junior ones well treated by the senior ones? I have a phobia here because senior students may end up treating the junior ones as house helps except otherwise stated.

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