Home-Sharing Program Connects Homeowners and Struggling Renters

Devon Hoyt is outreach coordinator for Metro Homeshare, which links homeowners and renters to help both of them out financially. Photo: Barbara Sherman.

Throughout Tigard and Tualatin as well as the metro area, there are homeowners who are struggling financially to continue living in their homes. On the other side of the spectrum, there are folks trying to live on a limited income, including paying rent, but find it difficult when the average rent for a studio apartment is $1,049 per month.

That is where Metro Homeshare comes in: It is a shared-housing program that started in October 2017 in Multnomah County and spread into all of Washington County.

“Home-sharing is pretty new to Oregon,” said Devon Hoyt, outreach coordinator for Metro Homeshare. “Our program helps homeowners stabilize and retain their housing by developing extra rooms in their home into affordable rentals for those seeking rooms to rent. We work with the faith community, and Metro Homeshare also addresses deeper human needs for connection, community, independence and empowerment. Social isolation is a huge health factor.

“Homeowners turn to the program to help pay mortgages and property taxes, to get help with daily chores or are lonely and would like the company of a compatible housemate. They also rely on us for the safety that comes with our screening process rather than rely on common internet platforms.”

The screening process includes background checks and references for both parties, plus it creates a snapshot of participants’ lifestyles that includes if they have pets and visitors as well as their social drinking, mobility and what their transportation needs are.

“The biggest issues are pets and smoking,” Hoyt said. “Most of the providers don’t want pets and smoking.”

The service includes inspecting the homes for safety and cleanliness and providing a contract for both parties to sign plus checking in with those in a new living situation every 90 days to make sure the set-up is running smoothly. In addition, mediation is available for the first two years for those in the program.

“We don’t keep track after two years,” Hoyt said. “When we do background checks, deal-killers are convictions for fraud, identity theft, violence and sex offenses. And there are all sorts of issues to resolve, such as whether the renter will do some chores in lieu of paying the full rent.

“We want the arrangement to be fair and equitable to both parties. We don’t dictate anything. This is about the clients coming to terms with their own arrangement.”

The clients seeking home-based residences are typically on fixed incomes that range from $735 to $1,200 monthly, and the average rent paid by Metro Homeshare renters is $600 per month, but it can be as low as $200-$400 or as high as $700-$800. The service has even set up renters who actually pay no rent.

“People are fearful of what they will find on Craig’s List. We have a small staff but we all have social work or counseling backgrounds. We make it as easy as possible for folks to enroll. We are filling a need in the community. Although we serve people in their late 20s through their 80s, most of our clients are older adults and seniors.”

To generate more interest in the program and get more participants involved, Metro Homeshare, which is under the umbrella of the Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, is promoting the program at senior centers and through churches and organizations. It is looking into hosting an event when homeowners and home-seekers can meet each other.

“There is definitely a need for this type of program,” Hoyt said. “Eight out of 10 situations work out. It’s cool when it works.”

For more information, visit metrohomeshare.org; email [email protected] or Hoyt at [email protected] or call 971-271-5195.