Living with a senior: a solution to the student rent crisis in Ontario

At the start of every semester, dozens of notifications ring in from Facebook groups filled with students trying to find rooms to rent. Semester after semester, the struggle to find a place to live, and finding one that is cheap and close to the college or university, is a constant battle for students. Oftentimes, students forget about the quality of the home because the costs are so high and timing is limited.

Carleton University graduates, Cat Kelly, Brendan Lucas and Mattias Lightstone, launched an intergenerational home sharing program last year called Win-Win Home Sharing for students and seniors. Seniors who have an available room in their house can rent it to students for a cheap price and in return, students help with housekeeping.

After Kelly spent a lot of time with her grandparents, an idea sparked about how young people interact with and treat elderly people. She read a statistic online which truly shocked her.

“Eighty per cent of those 80 and up feel isolated, and it was a really easy stat for me to remember,” said Kelly, CEO and Co-Founder of Win-Win Home Sharing.


Cat Kelly, CEO and Co-Founder of Win-Win Home Sharing. Photo credit: Farah Khan

Photo by Farah Khan. Cat Kelly, CEO and Co-Founder of Win-Win Home Sharing.

Kelly knew she needed to do something about the issue. Before she knew it, she was on the journey to solving two hard problems with a great team standing by her. One being senior isolation and the other, the student rent crisis.

“Finding places to rent has become nearly impossible,” said Kelly. “The aim is that we’re making available rooms that are way cheaper than the traditional rent in locations that are better for students.”

Let’s talk money. With real estate prices shooting through the roof, it’s no wonder rent is also high. But with Win-Win, the rent varies depending on how many chores the student helps out with.

“Let’s say someone wants the driveway shoveled, and the trash to be taken out. These are the services and we would discount accordingly to that,” said Kelly. “Our highest price is $550, our base price is $250 and $50 of that is our fee.”

Dharshatharan Aronan, a second-year engineering student at Carleton, started looking for a place back when he was living in India. He could not find the best one for him, until he came across Win-Win Home Sharing.

“It is quite difficult to find the right place,” said Aronan. “I would not imagine staying in such a nice place, close to university, with all the convenience around.”

Not only do students get a cheap place that is better quality to live in, the home sharing program is bridging the generation gap and allowing both seniors and students to learn from one another.

“Living with a senior, it’s almost like a family,” said Aronan. “It’s almost like having a grandmother and it’s nice to have someone there to talk to you.”

In order to match a senior and student, there are many surveys that need to be completed and based on that, an algorithm is run. Students are seeing the benefits of the intergenerational living program and it is starting to become a popular option among students.

“We try to find as many overlaps as possible,” said Brenden Lucas, CTO and Co-Founder. Then we recommend the senior a couple of potential students based on that because the demand is so high on the student side, it’s like 13 to one.”

Win-Win Home Sharing took off in the summer of 2019, and as the company continues to grow, the creators hope this is one that can eventually help students across Canada and the world.

“I would love for this to be a program that is nationwide, international,” said Kelly. “The fact that there is such a need, if we’re able to answer that demand and for Win-Win to be synonymous with trust, and care and creating a new family for people, that would be amazing.”


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