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Shared Housing

At a Glance

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Type: Development type
Where tool is used: Residential neighborhoods
Timeline: Short-term
Who implements: Homeowners
Relative density impact: Low

Shared housing, or home sharing, brings together two or more unrelated individuals. Homeowners or renters with excess space (home providers) are matched with people in need of an affordable place to live (home seekers). There are two types of home sharing arrangements. The first is a home provider matched with a home seeker who pays rent. The second is a home provider matched with a home seeker who pays reduced rent in exchange for performing household duties. In both cases, it is designed to be a long-term living situation where each participant has their own private space while sharing common areas of a home.

Shared housing enables home providers to offset their housing costs by receiving rent, or get additional help in managing housing duties. For older adults who wish to age in place, home sharing can help them maintain independence longer and make housing costs and duties more manageable. Home sharing can also be appropriate for people who are single and looking for living arrangements that offer more community, companionship, and security than living alone. Beyond the benefits to individuals, home sharing can help address jurisdictions’ affordable housing shortages by making use of extra space within existing housing stock that would otherwise be unused.

HIP Housing’s Home Sharing Program matches home providers and home seekers in San Mateo County. HIP Housing’s program is one of the largest in California and provides a creative housing option for over 700 individuals each year. HIP Housing also provides technical assistance to organizations in other areas with Home Sharing programs in development. All 21 San Mateo County municipalities have included information about Home Sharing in their 2014-2022 Housing Elements. HIP Housing has served 55,000 people through its home sharing program since 1979.

To help address the increasing demand for home providers, in July of 2015, the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors awarded HIP Housing a 2-year, $300,000 grant to help the organization implement a marketing campaign, increase outreach activities, and establish a cash incentive to recruit more home providers to the program.

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Key Benefits

  • Allows home providers to bring in additional rent and/or get assistance with household duties.
  • Can reduce the need for expensive outside help with cleaning, home maintenance, elder care, or long term care.
  • Allows home seekers to save money on living costs, including rent, utilities, furniture, and household items.
  • Allows senior home providers to age in place and can address challenges of living alone and social isolation.
  • Can increase financial independence and security in the home.
  • Utilizes existing housing stock to create new affordable housing.
  • Can be provided more quickly and cost-effectively than building new housing.
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Community Considerations

  • Home sharing programs screen program applicants through references, interviews, and background checks, and match home providers with home seekers.
  • Home sharing agreements should specify how housemate disputes should be addressed.
  • Home sharing marketing materials may need to address neighbors’ concerns about parking capacity, overcrowding, and negative perceptions of who needs to home share.
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Community Engagement Strategies

  • Educate your community: Conduct presentations to congregations, senior centers, community groups, school districts, homeowner associations, community health and resource fairs, etc.
  • Inform your community: Direct mail campaign to San Mateo County homeowners.
  • Promote success stories in your community: Create testimonials and videos of home sharing participants from a variety of backgrounds (seniors, single parents, empty nesters, students, etc.) and highlight how the arrangement has met their housing needs.
  • Provide informational resources to your community: Scale up process of matching homes and home seekers to include photos of available homes and an automated process for individuals to submit inquiries (similar to the Airbnb model).
  • Engage your community: Provide information to neighborhood watch, fire, and police groups.
  • Engage your community: Promote home sharing through social media outlets.
  • Provide informational resources to your community: Place home sharing ads in publications, newsletters, bulletins, etc.
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