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October 12, 2017
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Op-ed in the Times Argus

In response to an article about downsizing in the Times Argus, our Executive Director penned this op-ed.

 

One strategy for housing


We were pleased to read Stephen Mills’ article regarding the growing interest in the Montpelier-based downsizing initiative and look forward to participating in the meeting on Oct. 28 to learn the full results of the housing needs survey. Home Share Now is also on the draft agenda as a strategy for central Vermonters to utilize as a downsizing tool when appropriate.

For homeowners unable, or uninterested, or simply not quite ready, to sell the family home, Home Share Now can fill an empty bedroom with a vetted home seeker to either pay rent or lend a helping hand up to 10 hours per week. The majority of our matches pay some rent and provide a few hours of service a week, be it help with household chores, minor home repair, meal preparation or friendly conversation.

Home Share Now uses the best practices of the industry to include in-person interviews, background checks, references and a two-week trial period. For those matches that continue after a trial period, a customized agreement documents the shared expectations of the match. Should a wrinkle arise, Home Share Now’s mediator is available to provide support for the life of the match, be it problem solving or to help end a match.

For folks looking for housing in central Vermont, Home Share Now typically has 20 to 40 home sharing opportunities available for consideration — of those currently available, only two are in Montpelier. Home providers are also vetted and provide an affordable rent, made possible by the exchange of non-medical services. Home sharing rents typically range from $0 to $500 per month, do not require a security deposit and include utilities. The rent includes a private bedroom and use of the common spaces like kitchen and living room.

One matched home provider said, “Having the additional help around the house has been great. Mary has helped with painting projects, organizing, and some lifting. This is a wonderful program that can help solve so many housing problems for so many.” By 2020, the entire baby-boomer population will be between the ages of 55 and 75, resulting in a population tilt and a projected increased demand for various housing options, be it single-floored homes, smaller units or supportive housing. Home Share Now is already seeing an increased demand for its services, making more matches every year since 2013. While Home Share Now does not have any age or income restrictions, the bulk of its matched participants also fall in the 55-75 age range.

Most of Home Share Now’s participants, those both offering a home and needing a home, are single women as the likelihood of living alone after the age of 50 increases. By age 80, 3 out of 5 households consist of a single person; women make up nearly three-quarters of this group.

Montpelier is certainly lacking market-rate housing and smaller, single units and the timeline for new construction is typically a longer one. While home sharing isn’t the right option for everyone, it is an alternative housing option worth considering whether it be a long-term option (our longest running match being six years) or something more transitional in nature, maybe lasting only a year.

Whether it is home sharing or another vehicle, providing options for single-person households and downsizing individuals in central Vermont encourages community diversity, engagement and accessibility.

Home sharing maximizes the use of underutilized housing stock, prevents homelessness, allows aging in community, can delay or prevent the transition to a care facility, supports multigenerational living, builds peer-to-peer networks, stabilizes neighborhoods, results in communal consumption and enables an increased quality of life, be it feeling happier, healthier, more financially secure or less lonely. Last year, 115 people secured their housing thanks to Home Share Now, at a price tag of only $270,000.

And, in the same way that there isn’t enough housing to go around, Home Share Now has always experienced more people in need of housing compared to those with a home to offer. In light of this perpetual challenge, Home Share Now is willing to waive the match fee for the first six home providers in the Barre/ Montpelier area who mention this letter, pending program eligibility.

Home Share Now commends all of the folks thinking creatively to address the housing shortage. While there isn’t a single answer, together we can make a difference in the livability and affordability of central Vermont.

Christina Goodwin is the executive director of Home Share Now in Barre.

Commentary | The Times Argus | October 11, 2017

The article this was written in response to can be found here.