Home sharing is helping seniors afford housing

senior home sharing
Posted at 3:18 PM, Mar 17, 2022

LONGMONT, Colo. — Housing prices have increased by more than 20% across the country since the start of the pandemic, and it’s leaving many families struggling to afford a place to live. Those price increases are especially hurting seniors. However, a movement helping seniors afford a place to live is growing. It’s called home sharing, meaning two or more people who aren’t related live together to share costs.

It’s made life a lot less stressful for Becky Miller.

“Well, my IRA was depleted, and I needed, I was having a hard time making ends meet. I work part-time, but that's all I can handle. So, I decided that I'd get a roommate,” said Miller.

So, she used an online platform called Silvernest to help. It’s a site that matches seniors with roommates to help with cost and companionship.

"I hope that, eventually, home sharing is thought of just like having roommates out of college. It just is a great way to make ends meet," said Riley Gibson, the president of Silvernest. "Ultimately, I think that means people having more financial resilience in retirement and having more options, so they can choose to spend money on things that are memorable and enrich their lives, instead of housing."

Miller found Marlene Mears, and the two have lived together for more than a year.

“People I know will say, ‘Oh that’s so weird you’re moving in with strangers. That’s so weird. You’re not in college anymore!’ And I said, ‘I know, but that’s what I want to do now!’” said Mears.

Thankfully, the new living situation has gone better than either of them expected.

“You know, you don’t feel alone like there’s someone here who’s got my back,” said Mears.

“It’s companionship!” said Miller with a smile. “I know I’ll never have to eat supper alone!”

Together, it’s also much easier to pay the bills.

“Back in the 60s, 70s and 80s, it was hard for us to imagine how much more the cost of living was going to be when we hit retirement,” said Mears. “For me, this fits really well. I’m saving money for the things I want to do.”

Home sharing is exploding in popularity among seniors.

“It is such an obvious solution to such a set of immense problems around affordable housing, isolation, and just preparedness for retirement and making ends meet,” said Gibson.

“For some people, it will provide an alternative and allow people to live independently without having to go to a shelter,” said Eileen Doherty of the Colorado Gerontological Society.

Doherty said many seniors are spending 80-90% of their monthly income on rent. That’s why she’s advocating for legislation to give money or tax deductions to people who home share.

“At this time, I think cash is really what is helpful and beneficial to people facing the housing crisis,” said Doherty.

Colorado, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, and Washington D.C. are all considering legislation to give rent incentives to home sharers.

"This is an immediate solution," said Gibson of home sharing. "If you look at the overall housing stock, how long it takes and how expensive it is to create new housing, there are so many constraints when we talk about adding new housing inventory. This is a really interesting solution that is leveraging the market to generate new inventory out of what already exists."

“Rent controls, co-ops, home sharing, I think there’s a lot of ways the government could step in so that people aren’t having to eat ramen every night,” said Mears.

But until that happens, both Miller and Mears women hope more people will see home sharing the way they do: a partnership to pay the bills that became a friendship worth far more.

If you are curious about Silvernest, click HERE.