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Last updated: 5/1/18

Intergenerational Homeshare Pilot

We’re offering affordable housing to graduate students while helping local homeowners and communities.

This pilot program is an action item from the Age-Friendly Boston Action Plan. This plan aims to encourage age-friendly development in the City. We’re also exploring different housing options in communities through a “Homeshare” network. This network matches older homeowners with extra rooms to rent to people who need to rent a room

Have questions? Contact us:

26 COURT STREET, 11TH FLOOR
BOSTON, MA 02108-2501
Sharing a Home
Credit: Neighborhood Development

Why we did this

Seniors are the fastest-growing part of Boston’s population according to our Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030 report. The AARP also reports that nearly ninety percent 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, an online real estate resource, 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. Also, the 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.

Mayor Walsh

The Experiment

Our hypothesis? By matching older adults with graduate students, we will open up new affordable rental units. We’ll also create sustainable living environments that support residents as they age in their homes.

The City and nesterly are collaborating to bring this innovative housing solution to Boston. We’ve seen strong demand for the program. Working with local organizations and schools, nesterly received more than over 80 applications in only three weeks. Applicants worked with nesterly to find matches that also helped build a stronger community.

To date, we’ve made eight successful matches across Boston and in surrounding cities. nesterly created a new website that matched older adult needs with student availability and support. The pilot will run through December. We plan to study the pilot’s impact and feasibility. We’ll also get a better understanding of the resources needed to scale this into a city-wide program.

Results and Lessons Learned

RESULTS

The pilot project, exceeded our expectations, demonstrating that homesharing is a valuable and viable option for increasing affordability and social connectedness. The matches were able to not only help offset some of the high rental costs but also support each other both emotionally and physically through everyday interactions or errands. We measured success by evaluating interest, affordability, and social benefits:

Interest:
  • There was significant interest in the pilot program - 80 people applied (30 hosts and 50 guests).
  • A total of 8 pairs were matched with no issues during this pilot - 89% stated they would recommend this program to others.
Affordability:
  • During the pilot, the homeshare average rent was $700.
  • Some guests saved $100 - 150 by helping the host with basic tasks within the house, like small errands or help with pets.
Social Benefits:
  • Nearly 50% of hosts were single women. Mostly all the hosts around retirement age and needed basic services such as help with their dog, shopping and cooking.
  • Our matches showed us there are benefits to homeshare beyond just the financial benefit, with matches growing 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

LESSONS LEARNED

The homesharing environment brings people from different generations together to better support, whether it's social, financial or anything in-between.

Interest:

A diverse group of hosts were interested in the homesharing pilot. However, many who expressed interest needed help getting the physical space ready for a guest.

  • Opportunity for expanding - Organize volunteers to help hosts who are interested in homesharing get their home ready for guests.
Affordability:

Graduate students were enticed by the idea of paying a subsidized rent. It was so well received that the nesterly website now has over 1000 people. However, there are many more guests than hosts on the platform.

  • Opportunity for expanding - Marketing the opporting to hosts will be important to helping the program scale.
Social Benefits:

Through this pilot older adults living alone now had a new connection in the community and means for social interaction thus potentially improving their overall quality of life and health. However, some older adults or their families expressed hesitation and fears about opening their home to a stranger.

  • Opportunity for expanding - Host workshops and share information about best practice for safe and happy homesharing.
Technology:

Having a website to safely and smoothly find the right match creates opportunity for scale. However, older adults who are not digital natives or may have disabilities could struggle with the application.

  • Opportunity for expanding - Provide services to walk older adults through the application and help them find the right match for their home.

What's Next

Through the pilot we learned that there is a significant amount of interest in homesharing. Yet some challenges remain for hosts to participate. To scale this program, we believe partnerships with existing community organizations, will help more residents homeshare. Some areas of expansion we are exploring are below:

Education:

Hosting informational sessions and creating a homesharing guide could help support and expand outreach. Community groups like churches, civic organizations and others can share this idea to educate and build out the homesharing network.

Preparation:

Building relationships with organizations that provide clean up or home modifications could enable more people to host their space.

Matching:

Connecting with nonprofit and social service centers to assist with finding the right guest could bring more participants into the program.

The collaboration potential is expanding and it is exciting! We are looking at who can be a part of the homesharing process and collaboratively support it.