Student housing is notoriously sky-rocketing in the world’s big cities, forcing cash-strapped students to fall further into debt, take a job during their studies or look for alternate forms of accommodation. New York City, is of course no exception – on the contrary: the city is the world’s most expensive for student housing, with an average of US $526 shelled out by students per week. To putting that in context, Student.com’s data reveals that New York students pay almost double the rent paid by students tenth most expensive city for student housing, Sydney, Australia. In an attempt to alleviate the financial pressure of attending university, New York University has announced an urban social experiment – the USA’s largest university will house a select number of students with senior citizens at half the average living costs per year.

The ‘home stay’ program will match NYU students seeking accommodation in the city with senior citizens that have a spare bedroom in their homes. This model, according to the NYU Affordability Steering Committee, allows students to pay considerably less rent during their studies while low-income senior citizens will financially benefit from leasing out extra space. Currently, tenancy cost per year for students living in NYU’s halls of residence average at around US $14,000. Working with University Settlement, an NYC-based non-profit organization that works with low-income senior citizens, NYU will match mature and responsible students at any stage of their academic life with a nearby senior with a spare room. The organizations expect that students taking part in the intergenerational housing program will pay just US $7,000 annually.

Beyond financial incentives, intergenerational living is a trend that’s picking up steam around many cities for its social benefits. Vulnerable to loneliness and the associated health and safety risks, senior citizens are said to benefit from sustained interaction from other segments in society. Meanwhile, young people and students can contribute to their elderly roommates’ overall well-being by helping out with chores and errands. On the other hand, social scientists believe young and impressionable students can benefit from the wisdom and routines of an elder living companion.

One such program has already been successfully trialed in Chicago: students from DePaul University, Loyola University Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago were placed in free, private bedrooms at a local senior citizens’ home in exchange for light housekeeping, grocery shopping and teaching the elderly residents how to use computers. A similar scheme also made headlines in Deventer, the Netherlands, where students were given free housing in exchange for spending time and partaking in recreational activities with residents of a seniors’ home.

Planned to start with the upcoming academic year, NYU’s home stay scheme will be piloted with just 10 students. It hopes to free students from the need to take part-time jobs during their studies to be able to pay for accommodation.

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