'Homesharing' to help make ends meet
The recent story about older, unemployed workers in financial straits got me thinking of St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center's "Homesharing" program, which matches homeowners with room to spare and people needing a room to rent. I blogged about the effort a few years back, when the recession was just getting going. Have more homeowners needing income and renters needing cheaper digs connected since?
Before I could pick up the phone to ask, program director Annette Leahy Maggitti emailed to say that this is just what's happening. (She's not clairvoyant -- she read the older-worker story.)
"It has been a steady increase in matches," she said. "FY2008 we made 49 matches. FY2009 we made 78. In FY2010, 102."
One trend Maggitti is seeing: more would-be renters -- "seekers" -- who can't afford more than $400 a month even as many homeowners, "because of the economy and the utility bills," ask for $500 or more.
"Loss of employment seems to be the reason for sharing for homeseekers and the cost of living and keeping a home is the reason for homeowners," she added.
It's not always about money, or not entirely. Sometimes homeowners are having trouble seeing to household tasks and are willing to decrease their asking rent for a seeker eager to pitch in.
Seekers vary, too. Some are new to town. Some are graduate students. Some are reducing their housing costs by necessity, but others just want to save money, Maggitti said.
St. Ambrose staffers screen applicants -- homeowners and seekers -- before matching people. The applications ask for four personal references, verification that the person can pay their rent (if a seeker) or their mortgage (if a homeowner) and note that either side can ask for a criminal background check.
Right now, Maggitti said, "We could really use homeowners in the downtown area, close to transportation."
More than 800 people inquired about homesharing last year, but many didn't get to the interview stage for one reason for another -- lack of follow-through, for instance. St. Ambrose actually interviewed 230 seekers and 130 homeowners.
You can find other services designed to match strangers with compatible housing needs. And some folks just go the "roommate wanted" route. (Here's a story I wrote about the roommate search, complete with "speed roommating.")
Do you have a roommate success (or failure) story to share?