Home Sharing — A Solution to a Restrictive Housing Market

by Laura Cepoi, Executive Director, Olympic Area Agency on Aging

Have you thought about downsizing your home but there is no inventory? Have you been priced out of those options and all your equity is in your home? Finding alternate housing solutions on the Olympic Peninsula can be tough as we don’t have the same options that our urban neighbors have such as townhomes, condos, and apartment communi- ties.

Home sharing is a growing movement to share extra space in a home for rental income. It links a host to a home seeker, and it is a refined approach to securing a roommate. According to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, published in 2018, there were 879,000 Americans over 65 who were living with unrelated roommates. The typical host is a 65-year-old female who owns her own home, is self-employed, divorced, living alone and is independent… but is under financial pressure. The typical home seeker is a 53-year-old female.

Economic security is a major concern as we age, as one in three Americans over 45 has no retirement savings at all. Most people want to age in place, yet 26% of those over 65 live alone. The Covid pandemic demonstrated the drawbacks of social isolation with an astounding rise in the number of people reporting social isolation and loneli- ness. A simple solution to these issues is roommates—they provide social wellbeing, financial resilience in retirement and housing affordability.

The Host lists their extra space for rent and desired matches with potential renters, and the home seekers browse and apply to listings for long-term housing. The Olympic Area Agency on Aging is in the process of establishing a Home Sharing technology platform to make it a little bit easier for older residents to remain in their homes longer and reduce social isolation by matching a host with a home seeker. Like a dating app, one can list preferences in a home match to ensure compatibility with what matters most to you: non-smoking? Pets? Early bird? Home sharing provides additional housing options for those seeking living accom- modations in an area with limited rentals and a competitive housing market.

Benefits of Home Sharing

  • Gain companionship and have help with home upkeep
  • Provides passive income of $8,000-$15,000 per year
  • Enables homeowners to make a difference in their community
  • Home seekers pay 60-70% of market rates for a typical one-bedroom apartment
  • New pool of affordable housing in the community
  • Better use of space and resources (ecological benefits)
  • Background checks and automated lease and rent deposits (safety/security)
  • Reduced rent for help around the house

When opening our homes up to others, being able to trust that there are security measures and protections in place, and that matches are compatible, is crucial. Also crucial is being able to rely on a platform that will communicate house rules, provide interview checklists, and a lease agreement.

Both are key components in a program now underway at the Olympic Area Agency on Aging (O3A). This organization has supported older and disabled adults in Jefferson, Clallam, Grays Harbor, and Pacific Counties since 1976. Designated by the State Unit on Aging as one of 13 Washington area agencies on aging, O3A is mandated to coordinate services and advocate on behalf of older adults and others in need of long-term care throughout its service region.

In addition to a plethora of existing services, the O3A is now focusing on a technological platform that can offer home sharing support, safety, and options to older homeowners and home seekers on the Olympic Peninsula. O3A will begin advertising these services by mid-summer, so if you have extra space that needs to be cleared out and repainted, now is an excellent time to prepare it for home sharing.

Editor’s Note: Google “home sharing for seniors” and you will find a plethora of articles, ads, and miscellaneous information. As noted by Laura Cepoi, Executive Director, Olympic Area Agency on Aging, it’s an idea whose time has come.