St. Albert is continuing to explore how homeowners and people in need of housing can work together to help each other out.
Home sharing is the idea that two or more people can share a home together by working out a mutually beneficial agreement, or a win-win situation for both parties. It’s a simple concept, but one that has an unlimited combination of scenarios.
The St. Albert Housing Coalition hosted its first information session on Monday, Feb. 3, to test the waters and gather feedback. Around 30 people showed up to hear more information and share what they think would be the best home-sharing model for the city.
“The primary purpose that we’re exploring of home sharing is to support seniors in St. Albert who may be looking for a way to help with expenses, ways to assist with mobility challenges, or they just may be looking for companionship in their home,” explained Dianne Gillespie, community development co-ordinator for the City of St. Albert. The city is a member of the coalition.
“The secondary purpose of the program that we’re exploring is to increase the number of affordable rental options for students or others who are struggling, with some low-income.”
Though geared toward seniors, the program could expand to include other homeowners as well depending on the feedback, Gillespie said.
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All the different kinds of home share models essentially fall into two main groups, Gillespie said.
One is a faster online application process, where hosts and guests can register on a platform and create a profile. The guest would then submit an application for the homeowner to review themselves. If the applicant looks good, the host would then reach out to them so they could learn more about each other.
This model is used in Kelowna, B.C., through a platform called Happipad, which is seemingly pretty hands-off in the process – there’s no screening for the applicant outside of their profile, and it’s up to the homeowner and the tenant to find each other. But once that happens, the platform provides resources like contracts for both parties to agree on and sign. The host pays a $50 placement fee when they rent the room, and a five-per-cent monthly service fee is included in the rent.
The other model can be co-ordinated by an agency, a group of agencies, or partnerships, a process that would take longer than the online-only model. Gillespie used the HomeShare Alliance in Burlington, Ont., as an example.
“They offer two different kinds of agreements – one is a task exchange only, or a supplemental income option only. They also have an online process,” she said.
With this model, the agency does the searching for you through a list of pre-vetted local housemates. All potential roommates go through a screening interview, a detailed compatibility check and an extensive background check. HomeShare Alliance will also walk people though the legalities of home sharing, including drafting an agreement, while checking in periodically to see how people are doing, according to their website.
For a supplemental income home share, a matching fee is charged to the homeowner at the time the home share is confirmed with an agreement. For a task exchange home share, where the renter would help out with household chores like doing the dishes or cleaning laundry, it’s free for the homeowner. The renter would pay $300 a month to HomeShare Alliance for rent plus 10 hours a week for household chores.
The City of St. Albert could also step in if residents want to see a model that would look more like one introduced in Toronto last year.
Toronto HomeShare is a City of Toronto program run in collaboration with the National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly, which implements it. It matches older adults aged 55 and older with university or college students looking for affordable housing. In exchange, students get a reduced monthly rent.
READ MORE: Seniors concerned about affordable housing
Wendy King attended the first information session with her sister, Kari McEachern. King said she's looking into home sharing for her son, who has a disability and owns a home in St. Albert.
"He has extra bedrooms right now, so something like this could work," she said. "If this was done, he would probably need less paid support, and it would also free him up to go and do the things that he needs to do, like getting out in the community or getting to work."
McEachern said she liked the agency model because there more oversight, whereas King said she would prefer an online model because it gave the homeowner more control over the process. Both agreed there is a need for a home share program in St. Albert.
The next date for the second information session is on March 26 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Forsyth Hall in the library. After that, the Housing Coalition will host a workshop for residents to participate in the design of a St. Albert home share model.
Want to submit feedback on a home share program in St. Albert? Send your thoughts to Dianne Gillespie at [email protected]