Pressure to address the affordable housing crisis in Ontario has only continued to build in our current pandemic context. Housing is considered affordable when less than 30% of household income is spent on rent and utilities. According to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (2020), about 25% of households in Ontario fall below the affordable housing standard. The Kitchener Waterloo region has seen the second largest increase (up 266% since 2005) of housing prices in Canada (Ayer, 2021). This means that an adult who works 35 hours/week at minimum wage would spend 53% of their income to rent a bachelor apartment in Waterloo (Ayer, 2021). Similar data to this can be found for regions all over the country, thus making it apparent that affordable housing is an issue. Since the demand is high, addressing the urgent need for housing requires creativity and adaptation. Individuals and community services must be willing to think outside the box and consider innovative alternatives to affordable housing.
One emerging alternative is Home Share. Community Justice Initiatives has recently started a Home Share program for the Waterloo region and outlying areas. Waterloo Region Home Share (WRHS) is unique because it offers a free process to Home Seekers and Home Providers to support their housing search for compatible individuals with whom to share a home. The process of finding a home and a compatible individual to share a home with can be overwhelming, intimidating, and lengthy which is what makes the supportive process offered by Waterloo Region Home Share so valuable. WRHS acts not as a competitor to organizations that provide housing, but as an extra means of support in ensuring a compatible match between a Home Seeker and a Home Provider. Both receive assistance with finding a compatible Home Sharer, engaging in an introductory meeting, discussing needs and preferences related to shared housing, completing reference checks, creating a shared living arrangement, and receiving ongoing support after move in.
Due to urgent demands for housing, there is no shortage of Home Seekers; however, identifying Home Providers is proving to be more challenging. Home Providers are individuals who want to stay living in their home, have extra space in their home, and are open to living with another person and thereby receiving household expense support, companionship, and shared household chores. In Ontario, shared housing arrangements are growing in popularity because they are adaptable to individual needs and preferences. This means that home sharing looks vastly different from one situation to the next. Some Home Sharers may cook, eat, and shop together while other Home Sharers may maintain a more separate co-existence. Two family members may decide that they would like to be Home Sharers. Or, a home owner facing recent changes in health may benefit from living with someone who is able to do regular yardwork. Although the idea of sharing your home might be intimidating at first, consider how it might also be a positive opportunity for enrichment.
Home Sharing is an alternative housing option that allows for improved affordability; however, there are several other needs of equal value that can be met using such an arrangement. Home Sharing allows older adults to stay living in their homes as their needs related to housekeeping and healthy living become more complex (McEwen, n.d.). Home Sharing arrangements often include a reciprocal exchange of household and/or chore support that reduces the individual demand of home management (Pluhar, 2013). It’s an opportunity to live more sustainably by sharing energy use, vehicle use, and various household items (Pluhar, 2013). In addition, Home Share Vermont (2021) indicated that 81% of their program users felt safer in their home as a result of home sharing. Finally, it also mitigates feelings of loneliness and isolation by creating regular opportunities for social participation and companionship (Pluhar, 2013).
If you would like to learn more about Waterloo Region Home Share or begin the Home Share process, please visit the Community Justice Initiatives website at https://cjiwr.com/ or contact Wendy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 519-744-6549.
Ayer, S. (2021, Jube 10). Affordable housing in Waterloo region. Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation.
Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (2020, July 10). Housing Needs in Ontario. Government of Canada. https://www.ontario.ca/document/community-housing-renewal-ontarios-action-plan-under-national-housing-strategy/housing-needs-ontario#section-0
HomeShare Vermont (2021). Home Share Happenings: Annual Report 2021. HomeShare Vermont. https://www.homesharevermont.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Annual-Report-2021-WEB.pdf\
McEwen, T. (n.d.). Homesharing 101: Beginners guide for homeowners. Home Share Alliance. https://df87c52a-9648-4328-8f5a-93d4a95e4ed4.filesusr.com/ugd/bc9f9f_36ec3bb589c3422ba8830c7d110f0c8a.pdf
Pluhar, A. (2013). Sharing Housing: A Guidebook for finding and keeping good housemates (2nd ed.) Homemate Publishing.
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