Elderly Koreans sharing homes with college students grow as rent surges

2023.01.11 12:24:02 | 2023.01.16 14:13:01

[Photo by Lee Ji-ahn]이미지 확대

[Photo by Lee Ji-ahn]

Home-sharing program linking senior citizens with homes and college students looking for affordable living space is under the renewed spotlight in Korea amid rising rents and the widening generation gap.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government launched a home-sharing program in 2013 to help senior citizens with extra living space to earn income by providing accommodation to college students. The program gradually gained popularity, with the number of home matching cases reaching 251 in 2018 and 226 in 2019, until the wave of Covid-19 prompted students to shift to remote learning. The number of such home sharings matching cases declined to 28 in 2021 as many students stayed home instead of moving out to live close to college campuses.

The home-sharing program, however, has begun to revive with most of the social restrictions lifted to allow students to return to school. The Seoul government made 66 matches for senior citizens and college students in 2022. And inquiries about the program are also increasing, according to a program manager at the Seoul government office.

In addition to easing in social restrictions and surging home rental costs are prompting college students to the home-sharing program.

Monthly rent for a studio in Shillim-dong and Shincho, two of the most popular college districts in Seoul, have gone up by 100,000 won ($80) in a year, according to local real estate agents.

The sharp rise in rent also means more students are having trouble looking for decent homes with enough living space. A report published by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in December showed that 7.9 percent of young Koreans lived in a home with a space smaller than 14 square meters, as of 2021.

While moving into a senior citizen’s home provides an affordable housing option for college students, it also allows the elderly to have companions on top of earning extra income.

The program, moreover, is seen as a good way to reduce the gap between generations, which has been one of the most concerning social issues. A survey conducted by Hankook Research last year showed 81 percent of survey respondents see there is a significant conflict between generations in Korea.

By Lee Ji-ahn and Cho Jeehyun

[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]