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Homeshare shared housing programs.

The skyrocketing cost of rent in many communities has made it increasingly difficult for many tenants to remain in their homes while a general lack of affordable housing is presenting challenges to young, single or lower-income persons looking for places to live. Learn more about the solution for both groups growing practice of Homesharing, which is shared housing.

Shared housing can provide a homeowner as well as the home sharer (”housemate”) with access to affordable housing and mutual support. Non-profits, charities, and housing authorities around the nation administer the Homesharing Program. This service has proven to be more secure and effective than other more traditional roommate services or options. The program has been gaining national recognition as an affordable housing opportunity that can provide individuals, in particular seniors and singles, with financial relief as well as companionship.

Homesharing has expanded nationally and internationally in recent years. In high-priced cities such as Boston, Seattle, San Francisco and New York, homesharing as well as co living has become increasingly popular. There are many others though. Find a homeshare program near you.

What is shared housing?

The concept is relatively simple. Home Sharing provides both the current owner and the person who is looking for a place to stay with a number of benefits. A homeowner provides a room in their home and the use of shared common space to a person in exchange for assistance with household chores, financial compensation or a combination of both. In effect, two unrelated people agree to share their lives for mutual benefit.

What will happen is the homeowner offers accommodation to a sharer. All applicants to the program will be carefully screened through background checks, interviewing and the examination of personal references, so the program is as safe as possible. Once a match is found, there will need to be an agreed upon level of support provided. This can include cash for paying rent, or maybe assistance with household tasks such as shopping or light housework.

Homesharing goes beyond the typical landlord-tenant arrangement and is more than a business relationship. Compatibility is a major issue since the home's space will be shared. While the homeowner may receive some financial payment from a housemate to help with the cost of a mortgage or utilities, increasing income is usually not the top priority for a homeowner.




Housemates have much to offer besides cash. Companionship, assistance with shopping, gardening and household chores, providing transportation and helping care for pets often prove more valuable to the homeowner than a rental payment. While a typical homeshare agreement might establish a monthly rental rate, the amount can often be reduced by the housemate committing to a mutually agreed level of assistance.

The shared residence may be an apartment, condo, home or mobile home - really any type of lodging. Renters should be sure their rental agreement allows for a homesharing arrangement. Homesharing may involve adults of all ages as either the homeowner or housemate. It is a form of co-living. However, the majority of matches tend to involve older homeowners and younger housemates. Some programs even require that at least one party to the agreement be at least 55 years of age.

Homesharing may appeal to older homeowners who are divorced or who are empty-nesters with few relatives living close by. It can be an attractive option to persons who want to avoid the hassle of moving and downsizing or who want to remain in the community in which they have lived for years. A single parent in need of childcare assistance might also benefit from homesharing.

Most of the homeshare programs allow a wide variety of clients. A home sharer (“housemate”) might be a single parent, senior citizen, student, a working professional, a person with disabilities, someone at-risk of homelessness, or a person simply wishing to share their life and home or apartment with others.

On the flip side, housemates (“renters”) may often be students, young people and workers with lower salaries may find this an attractive alternative since it can provide adequate, stable housing at a reduced cost. At least one recent study found that persons working full time and earning less than $25 an hour were unable to afford housing on their own in many urban communities. Homesharing provides one solution.

How Homeshare programs operate

Homeshare programs matching homeowners with home seekers (housemates) exist in many countries and across the U.S. although not in every state. The most frequent combination in homeshare programs involves matching an older homeowner who wants to continue living independently with a younger housemate in need of affordable housing, but other shared housing agreements can be made of people of various ages or needs.





Agencies that facilitate the sharing of a home employ varying approaches. Most are run by non-profit or charitable organizations. Most provide services for free, but some charge a nominal service fee. For homeowners utilizing a homeshare program, much more is involved compared to just posting a "Roommate Wanted" notice.

Staff will put Home Providers (people who are seeking a housemate) in contact with Home Seekers, who are individuals looking for a room or place to rent. The service promotes and encourages living arrangements in which people share a home or apartment based on preferences, common needs, and interests. Each client application is reviewed and screened. The arrangement will be custom made as it is well known that matches parties together is not a simple or quick process.

In addition, in an effort to help facilitate potential hosts and guests in determining their willingness to be matched in a shared living arrangement with one another, the staff from many agencies will schedule and attend meetings between program participants. In addition, prior to moving in, the Homeshare Programs will also create a written agreement to help hosts and the sharers have security and level of confidence in their shared living arrangements. This will include how expenses, will be addressed and paid for as well as how the house sharer will provide other assistance to the homeowner..

Most homeshare programs thoroughly screen both homeowners and persons seeking housing. This often includes interviewing, conducting background and reference checks and visiting the home to be shared. Some programs may place the responsibility on the homeowner to check references.

It will be a comprehensive process that includes registration, intake, assessment, applications, interviewing, and screening of both home seekers and providers. This process is conducted by trained housing counselors, and many work with local or state government housing authorities.

Steps taken include, but are not limited to, the following. The program will need to evaluate seekers as HomeShare candidates. Staff will complete in-home assessments and evaluate references. Applicants will need to go through a formal screening process, reference checks and criminal background checks. Get assistance with housing agreements and completing a contract. The program will also offer ongoing mediation and support as desired.

Program coordinators match homeowners with potential housemates who can begin communicating and getting to know each other. Some programs include a secure messaging platform, assist in negotiating homeshare agreements and provide follow-up support. Other programs simply provide forms and suggest matches leaving it to the parties to work out arrangements.




Key benefits of sharing a home

There are a variety of potential benefits to a homeowner including companionship, assistance with chores, mobility needs such as to a doctor and the added security of knowing there is someone else in the home, particularly at night or in the event of an emergency. Homeowners can remain where they want to be and feel safer than if they lived alone.

Homesharing can delay the need for a senior to seek costly care in an assisted living facility. Although housemates are typically not expected to provide personal care for the homeowner, assistance with shopping, cooking, cleaning and providing transportation to medical appointments and the grocery store can make a big difference for seniors desiring to remain at home.

Seniors can also benefit as it can help to lessen the need for long term institutional care or costly chore/care services as there is the possibility of companionship to offset isolation and/or loneliness experienced by many (in particular seniors) living alone.

Homesharing, as well as coliving, reduces loneliness and social isolation which often lead to health problems. Having a person with whom to interact daily often proves more valuable than rent payments, but even a comparatively small financial payment from the housemate can provide a needed benefit to help cover mortgage and utility costs. The homeowner's family benefits from knowing there is someone else in the home looking out for the security and welfare of their loved one.Shared housing

For housemates (i.e roommates), the benefits are obvious. Homesharing programs allow students, part-time workers and young professionals to find secure housing they can afford. Younger housemates may find an older homeowner fills a void created by distance from parents and grandparents. Families of young housemates benefit from having peace of mind that their son or daughter has a stable, safe living arrangement.

People of all ages and backgrounds can sign up, whether they own the home or are looking for a house to live in. While many seniors benefit from the service, others can sign up as well. It will improve participants economics. It does this as it offers additional income (saved money) for home providers, shares housing expenses (such as a buying food in bulk), is an alternative to long waiting lists for subsidized housing, and offers affordable rent for home seekers. It should be safer than using a more traditional roommate service.

If the homeowner is older, elderly, or a senior citizen, some agencies match seniors with other seniors (if they desire this type of Homeshare). The program will match an older adult who wants to remain in their own home with another adult of any age who is in need of housing.

Independence is offered for seniors, as they can remain in their homes. Companionship may be another benefit, as well as mutual support or some minor household tasks. HomeShare is a simple solution that offers great benefit to seniors and those seeking more affordable housing. Even if a match doesn’t occur, HomeShare may also be able to provide housing consultations and referrals to younger adults and seniors who are in need of affordable housing.







Studies show that HomeShare programs can offer a more effective and secure alternative to just finding a roommate in a standard landlord-tenant arrangement. A key reason being that interviews and background checks are completed as part of shared housing programs.

Personal references are also followed up on. Professional social workers and staff thoroughly screen and check the references of all guest applicants and hosts. Staff will do their best to ensure that matches are made that will have the best possible likelihood of long-term success, and they will try to ensure people are compatible.


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By Jon McNamara

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