Initially a pilot project, Intergenerational Homeshare is now expanding. Our goal of is to make 100 matches between older adults with spare rooms and people who need a room to rent by June 2020. This program is a partnership between:
Why are we doing this?
Seniors are the fastest-growing part of Boston’s population. That's according to our Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030 report. The AARP also reports that nearly 90% of older homeowners want to stay in their homes. But, they face challenges, including:
- social isolation
- declining incomes, and
- home maintenance.
A report by Trulia, estimates that more than 3.6 million rooms in the US are unoccupied and could be rented out. This study found that graduate students could save up to $24,000 each year by renting a room rather than a one-bedroom apartment. The also study found that there are more than 38,000 spare bedrooms in the homes of Boston baby boomers.
We know that many older adults in our neighborhoods have found themselves with space in their homes and a need for some companionship and simple home maintenance. We hope this opportunity provides more options for people as they are thinking about how they want to live out their future.
Our hypothesis? By matching older adults with people looking for rooms to rent, we will open up new affordable rental units. We'll also create sustainable living environments that support residents as they age.
During the pilot, Nesterly and the City worked to bring this innovative housing solution to Boston. There was strong demand for the program. Working with local organizations and schools, Nesterly received more than 80 applications in only three weeks. Applicants worked with Nesterly to find matches that also helped build a stronger community. The pilot resulted in eight successful matches in Boston and surrounding cities.
In this latest iteration, Nesterly and the City will continue to work together to scale homeshare into a citywide program. Nesterly created a website to match older adults with people looking for rooms to rent. They will be partnering with community groups and local organizations to host informational sessions. Nesterly will also reach out to older adults interested in learning more about this concept.
Results and lessons learned
The pilot project exceeded our expectations. It showed that homesharing is a valuable and viable option for increasing affordability and social connectedness. The matches were able to help offset some of the high rental costs. They also supported each other, both emotionally and physically, through everyday interactions. We measured success by evaluating interest, affordability, and social benefits:Interest:
- There was significant interest in the pilot program. Eighty people applied (30 hosts and 50 guests).
- A total of eight pairs were matched with no issues during this pilot. Eighty-nine percent stated they would recommend this program to others.
- During the pilot, the homeshare average rent was $700.
- Some guests saved $100 - 150 by helping the host with basic tasks within the house. These included small errands and help with pets.
- Nearly 50 percent of hosts were single women. Mostly all the hosts were around retirement age and needed basic services. These included help with their dog, shopping and cooking.
- Our matches showed us there are benefits to homeshare beyond just the financial benefit. Our matches have grown into fulfilling relationships.
Quotes from participants
- “I like being able to feel as though I'm helping in another way. His PhD program might have been a reach if he had to pay for a room alone, but now there is another alternative." - Host
- “I'm an empty-nester, and he brings a presence into my home that makes it feel so much more alive and full. We're cooking dinner together and I'm showing him Roxbury's beautiful architecture.” - Host
The homesharing environment brings people from different generations together to better support each other. That's true whether it's social, financial, or anything in-between.Interest:
A diverse group of hosts were interested in the homesharing pilot. But, many who expressed interest needed help getting the physical space ready for a guest.
- There's an opportunity for expanding. We can organize volunteers to help hosts who are interested in homesharing get their home ready for guests.
Graduate students were enticed by the idea of paying a subsidized rent. It was so well received that the nesterly website now has over 1,000 people. But, there are many more guests than hosts on the platform.
- There's opportunity for expanding. Marketing the opportunity to host will be important to helping the program scale.
Through this pilot, older adults living alone now had a new connection in the community and means for social interaction. This has the potential to improve their overall quality of life and health. But, some older adults or their families expressed hesitation and fears about opening their home to a stranger.
- There's opportunity for expanding. We can host workshops and share information about best practices for safe and happy homesharing.
Having a website to safely and smoothly find the right match creates opportunity for scale. But, older adults who are not digital natives or may have disabilities could struggle with the application.
- There's opportunity for expanding. We can provide services to walk older adults through the application and help them find the right match for their home.
What's Happening Now
As we expand this effort, we have several guiding principles. They will continue to shape our approach to intergenerational homeshare and inform our evaluation of this work. These principles are below:
- Ensuring the safety of all homeshare participants
- Supporting older adults and renters
- Scaling this approach
- Understanding the barriers to participation
In response to COVID-19, the Housing Innovation Lab, the Age Strong Commission, and our partner Nesterly, announced the creation of Good Neighbors. The platform connects at-risk individuals with volunteers to fulfill basic needs. These include deliveries and friendly check-ins.