Issue 14: 1 August 2008

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The lack of a dining-room does not bother this group of students (plus a friend) who gather in one of the bedrooms in their shared house for an evening meal. By doing without a lounge/dining-room, they can split the rent among more people for greater economy.

Mixed flatting, which became popular in the early 1970’s, appeals to university students living on a restricted budget with a life-style partly dominated by lecture hours, essay, assignments, tests and examinations. A former student president commented that the advantages of mixed flatting were many, in spite of the prejudices of the time. In his opinion, it improved the manners of the males, made the females less “sloppy” and generally improved the attitudes of students in groups to the needs of others.

Mixed flatting is now commonplace, especially with students at Auckland University. A room in a house or flat cost an average of $17.80 in 1980/81, though many now expect to pay at least $20.

Some enterprising students have managed to find a reduced-rent arrangement, like one group living in an old house in Herne Bay/Ponsonby. The rent is low ($50 a week - $10 each for the five occupants), but all maintenance on the house is the responsibility of the tenants, and they had to find their own furniture. This particular group consists of three students and two apprentices. An arrangement involving non-students does not always work well, but in this case there is co-operation in respecting the need for silence when a test or exam is looming. The students also frequently study in the University Library. Each person has his/her own room, all chores are shared, and everyone is expected to contribute equally to the running of the household, which is done on a democratic basis. A meeting is held each week for general discussion and to provide an opportunity to make suggestions or air grievances.

The group tries to keep food costs down to $12 a week each (although this is not always possible in the winter), the phone works out at about 50 cents, and electricity costs vary according to the weather and other factors – perhaps $1 to $1.50. Lunches are extra (“unless we are really hard up and then we take a sandwich or something”) but lunch can be bought at the student cafe for under $1, so the total basic essential outlay for everyone is about $28 to $30 a week.

Extracts from ‘Five in a House’, University of Auckland News, 11, 6, 1981