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Have an empty room? City initiative wants a graduate student to rent it

News Renting Boston
Homes on a side street in Beacon Hill on June 15, 2016.
Homes on a side street in Beacon Hill. Jim Tuttle

Empty nesters no more. At least that’s the plan.

On Thursday, Mayor Martin J. Walsh — in collaboration with the Elderly Commission, the Mayor’s Housing Innovation Lab, and a social enterprise startup called Nesterly — announced the Intergenerational Homeshare Pilot.

The program’s goal is to match Boston homeowners who have a spare bedroom with a graduate student looking for housing. It stems from the city’s Age-Friendly Boston Action Plan.

“Boston is home to a growing number of seniors and students,” Walsh said in a statement. “We know that many of our older residents want to stay in their homes — but need companionship and some simple home maintenance.”

And it is no surprise that students — both graduate and undergraduate — take up a significant portion of the city’s more affordable housing units. In fact, in its 2016-2017 Student Housing Trends report, the city found that 49.5 percent of area students live off campus (and not in the family home) in Greater Boston’s private-housing market.

Recent MIT grads Noelle Marcus and Rachel Goor founded Nesterly as a model to help solve the affordable-housing crisis.

“Noelle and I met as urban planning master’s [degree] students at MIT,” Goor said. “We had both come back to school with the interest in finding innovative solutions.” They graduated in June, which is when they really got to work on their project.

“Boston has a pretty ideal demographic for this, because there is a huge student population and the housing supply is very constrained,” Goor said. “There is a lot of legacy single-family housing, and empty nesters and people who are getting older no longer need or want that much extra space.”

According to a recent report from the real estate site Trulia, baby boomers have 3.6 million spare bedrooms in metropolitan areas across the United States — more than 38,000 of those are in Boston.

So far, there are eight participants in the new initiative, which will run through December. After the trial period is over, the city will then assess its impact and see whether it can be expanded.

“It’s going great,” Brenda Atchison, one of the first homeowner participants in the program, said in a statement. “The city and Nesterly were so thoughtful and matched me with a wonderful architecture student from Greece. I’m an empty nester, and Phoebus brings a presence into my home that makes it feel so much more alive and full.”

Right now, Nesterly is specifically working with graduate students, though they foresee expanding to other populations that might not need a yearlong lease.

Currently, you can go online and make a profile, whether you are a student looking for housing or a homeowner with an extra room (inventory is limited, given that they launched only recently). The homeowner sets the price and puts it in his or her profile, noting whether or not it’s negotiable. The price may also be decreased if the student does home maintenance. Once the logistics and price are worked out, the owner and renter sign a document through Nesterly.

The final grade on this project isn’t in, but can we give it an A for effort?