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Photo by Sandy Nicholson
Roommates Hiba (left) and Richa (right)

The Virtual Search for the Perfect Roommate

A new U of T service helps students avoid Codomesticus noxious

Meet Codomesticus noxius, known by its more common name of the “Bad Roommate.” A parasitic species, C. noxius invades its host by such transmission vectors as bulletin-board notices, friends of friends and Craigslist. Once infection has occurred, C. noxius quickly metastasizes in the host’s environment, resulting in outbreaks of dirty dishes, loud music, curious smells, bounced cheques and passive-aggressive Post-it notes. Irritation, insomnia and teeth-grinding are common symptoms. The species particularly thrives on and around university campuses. There are treatments, but there is no known cure.

Luckily, U of T is leading the way in the fight against this terrible disease. This summer, the University of Toronto Student Housing Service introduced its new Roommate Finder, an online matchmaking service that allows students to find the right person with whom to share an apartment.

“We’re ecstatic about the results that we’ve had,” says Jennifer Bennett, manager of the housing service. There are currently about 775 user profiles on Roommate Finder. Students fill out a survey about living habits such as sleep schedules and cleaning routines (“I don’t like to clean, so let’s just say whoever gets the urge,” reads one option under the “household cleaning” preferences). Desired price range and location are also noted. Students choose from a range of avatars – a snowboarder, a bookworm, even a toga-partier – to give their profile a shot of personality. Once they have filled out their own profile, they can browse others to find matches. Users can contact each other through a simple, Facebooklike interface to make the introduction, without disclosing personal info. “We wanted to create something that was secure and safe for students, and we wanted to think about their privacy,” says Bennett.

So you’re a heavy metal–blasting vegetarian teetotaler seeking the same? There’s probably someone on Roommate Finder you could live with in perfect harmony off-campus. (On-campus residences and colleges still handle their own matching.)

One of those students is Hiba Ali, in her second year of a master’s degree in forest conservation and environmental studies. Since she spent the summer in Ottawa, it was difficult to co-ordinate a long-distance roommate search and scout for apartments; Roommate Finder solved both problems. The service also allowed her to find certain qualities, beyond simply someone to split the rent. “I don’t drink alcohol, so I prefer to be with someone who doesn’t bring a lot of alcohol around,” she says. “And I prefer to keep a halal/kosher home. My roommate Richa is vegetarian, so that worked out really well. We’re even friends now.”

Score one for modern technology in the battle against Bad Roommates.

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