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Brighton mums tackle student housing costs

Hermione Pask and Becci Cari, co-creators of UniHomeSwap

Two Brighton mothers have established a home-swapping scheme for cash-strapped students.

Hermione Pask and Becci Cari had the idea that students and their families could save thousands of pounds if students swapped their empty rooms in their home town, rent-free, with others in their university town.

Students are able to make house-swapping arrangements via the website, and use it as a forum for their swap.

They do not pay for their rooms in their university town but contribute to the food bill if they share meals with the family.

Hermione Pask has outlined that students on the scheme in Brighton could save up to £14,500 over three years.

The website’s founders have been in touch with universities about the scheme and are visiting colleges on careers days to talk to student and parents about it.

Hermione Pask has confirmed that over 75 users have registered, although not all of them have made their rooms visible.

Users are mainly from the south of the midlands, with the most popular locations being Brighton, London, Lancashire, Cambridge, Bristol, Kent, Plymouth and Belfast.

The emergence and popularity of the scheme has led to a wider debate on costly student loans and the affordability of university living costs.

According to the UniHomesSwap website: “The cost of going to university is rising. t is not just the higher tuition fees, but also the added costs of accommodation and daily living. or most students, the only way to get to University is to take on an enormous loan. he prospect of entering the workplace with a huge debt is a daunting one.”

Another target of UniHomesSwap is to reduce ‘studentification’ in key areas in university towns and cities.

By integrating students into the community, the scheme aims to help solve noise and rubbish issues, one of the main complaints of residents in ‘student rich’ localities.

It will also make available more Houses of Multiple Occupation, (HMO) which could provide housing strategies solutions for councils across the UK.

Former teacher, Hermione Pask, initially had the idea when she was discussing how expensive it has become for students to live in university towns on student loans.

“I was saying because I can’t afford it, I would have to send my daughter to Brighton and that might be a shame because it might not have the course she wants. said it would be good if students could swap – and suddenly had this idea.”

She also said: “It could appeal to second and third years when they move out of halls and want to knuckle down and get their work done, or hard-working students going away from home for the first time who might like a home-from-home.”

However, Siobhan Freegard, the co-founder of the Netmums website, has said that university gives teenagers the opportunity to “learn to look after themselves.It’s bad enough having your own 18-year-old living in your house,” she said, “but at least you have the authority to say: ‘Get the hell out of bed.’”

Martine, a Psychology student at the University of Sussex, said that the idea does not appeal to her. “I think a key problem with the scheme is the thought of the strain it could put on parents. I don’t think I could ask my parents to host a stranger for three years just so I could forgo a maintenance loan.”

The creators of UniHomesSwap have acknowledged that it may not appeal to the majority, but could interest a significant minority including single parents and teenagers going to a university very far from their own home towns.

 

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