Living in Germany: Creative Apartment Solutions

Living in Germany: Creative Apartment Solutions

Apartment sharing is Germany’s favorite housing solution. Every fourth student in Germany lives in a Wohngemeinschaft (WG) where rent is affordable and social contacts in plenty.

Finding affordable living quarters in parts of the city with few options is the dream of every apartment hunter.  Living in a WG with other young people is a popular choice and helps keep the rent costs down by dividing the costs.  But at the beginning of the semester, the offerings are often few and far between.

In many cities “Wohnen für Hilfe” is offering a new alternative. With the motto “Rent a Rentner,” the “Wohnen für Hilfe” (Live for help) program is connecting senior citizens and families who need assistance with young people in need of a place to live.

Students can share an apartment with someone who needs help and pay correspondingly less rent.  Generally this means one hour of work per month per square meter living space.  Residents decide on what those activities will be individually—whether it be shopping, help with household duties like cooking and vacuuming, or gardening.  Personal maintenance is excluded.  Increasingly families and professionals are becoming interested in the potential for getting help with the kids’ homework or walking the dog.

It is a case in which everybody wins: the senior or young family offering a room gets help where they need it, and the student can live comfortably and affordably.  For many landlords this is a sign of solidarity, a way to help young people find a place to live despite the rising costs and sinking availability of living space.

WG platforms like WG-Gesucht.de are adapting to the trend.  On the WG-Gesucht website advertisers can categorize their offering under “Wohnen für Hilfe,” and apartment hunters can filter their searches accordingly.  In this way seniors and students can find each other quickly.  Many Studentenwerke and Studierendenausschüsse at universities can connect students directly with families looking to exchange accommodation for a little help around the house.

Even though every member of a “Wohnen für Hilfe” apartment share leads his or her own life, the chemistry between housemates has to work.  This isn’t a position as maid or handyman, but as a member of the household.  However statistics show that is works even better than the classic WG structure: On average students who find apartments through the program stay there for two to three years—the average stay in a WG is often much shorter.