HU students find cheaper housing for Jerusalemites

In response to social protests, 'UniverCity' utilizes the 40,000 apartments that are uninhabited most of the year.

May 25, 2013 21:39
2 minute read.
The grounds of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Hebrew U 370. (photo credit: Courtesy of the Hebrew University)

In response to last summer’s social protest movement against increasingly prohibitive cost-of-living standards throughout the country, student entrepreneurs from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem created a company to provide affordable housing for the capital’s young residents.

The business, called “UniverCity,” is managed by students from the university’s Student Union and links those looking for housing with the tens of thousands of property owners who rarely stay in their second homes.

“There are 40,000 apartments in Jerusalem that are uninhabited most of the year,” said CEO Sima Kuchersky on Saturday.

“So we look for people who have not rented out their properties and make it attractive for them to do so by lowering their overall costs.”

Kuchersky – who is majoring in business and international relations at the Hebrew University – said she became inspired to create UniverCity last year during the social protests to address the unique needs of the capital’s young population, many of whom face a dearth of affordable housing.

“For a lot young people, their time in Jerusalem as students is their first encounter with apartment owners,” said Kuchersky.

“The combination of limited affordable-housing options, confusing contracts and municipality taxes can be overwhelming – so we do our best to make this experience easy and affordable for everyone.”

To do this, Kuchersky said UniverCity works to make the relationship between young people and property owners mutually beneficial by lowering costs on both ends. Instead of paying bills for a property they are rarely in, having students pay rent, Kuchersky said, presents a “win-win situation.”

“For apartment owners, we offer building insurance, regular house calls and generally help them be care-free about their property,” she said. “To help cash-strapped students, UniverCity provides professional services such as movers, electricians, and other home-repair services.”

“There are always two sides to this equation: the students and the owner,” Kuchersky continued. “By addressing both we have made the terms better for both parties.”

Meanwhile, by assisting absentee apartment owners to manage, maintain and supervise their empty apartments at a lower cost, Kuchersky said the large volume of students and young people looking for affordable housing has become far more attractive.

“All this is done by combining business tools and social needs,” she said.

While Kuchersky said profit margins have been limited so far, she believes her long-term business plan will yield dividends down the road.

“In a year or two, we hope to make a profit,” she said.

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