Can’t afford a home? Maybe you can, if you found the right person to share it with.
At a time when our aging population is subjected to social, financial and physical challenges to living, a new organization has emerged to help those in search of alternatives with a concept known as shared housing.
“This is not just a matter of renting out a room or getting a roommate,” explained Twila Dainard, co-founder and president of Home Together Canada. She and Steve, her husband of 45 years, had actively searched for compatible people with whom to share a home and were motivated to address the difficulties they encountered in that process.
“It’s a matter of finding someone to truly share a home with, and that means sharing a good portion of your life as well. This is a long term choice – about building friendships, long-term relationships, and being each other’s support system.”
The process begins with creating a profile on the organization’s web site, hometogether.ca.
That profile includes a host of questions that are slightly reminiscent of a web-based dating site, (although Dainard stresses emphatically that there is absolutely no intimacy involved or implied in this living arrangement, only friendship). The profiles are listed under an anonymous user name that provides information on such personal preferences (about 100 in total) as dietary needs, sleeping habits, religious beliefs, love of pets, frequency of visitors and tolerance of noise, all designed to ensure that there is at least an initial compatibility.
Next, registrants browse profiles to narrow down the pool of potentially compatible home-sharing mates, then contact them by phone, Skype, or email to begin the process of getting to know the person or people.
Twila Dainard stresses that doing proper research is critical.
“A serious mistake that some people can make is in failing to follow a careful selection process. You can’t assume anything or jump into an arrangement through desperation.,” she said.
Once it appears a compatible person (or couple) has been found, a series of in-person meetings is recommended, at which time a co-living strategy can be developed.
That can include sharing an existing home owned by one of the registrants, or seeking a rental accommodation to be shared as a way to make it more manageable on a financial and/or logistical basis.
“If another person has found a three-bedroom home with a fenced yard for pets and a garden area, but can’t afford the $2,500 rent, two or three singles or couples could take it on, sharing not just the rent, but the yard work and daily chores to make it a workable option,” Dainard said.
All the living arrangements are then codified in a written agreement, with a set term that can be renewed or terminated, depending on how things work out. An initial term of three months is recommended, but as the relationships progress, longer-term agreements can develop.
The website also offers advice and strategies designed to overcome common problems associated with co-habitation, ranging from decorating common living space, to agreements on the division of household chores and responsibilities.
Dainard pointed out that not only is the group is a non-profit and registration free for those looking to home share, no one takes an active role in overseeing matches once they occur. The intention of Home Together, she said, is simply to provide the vehicle where like-minded people can meet and build a new sort of living arrangement to deal with any financial, social, medical stresses they may be experiencing.
Some key questions to ask before home sharing
You might want to discuss a few hot-button topics to test for compatibility before getting into a home-sharing situation. Here are a few examples:
Do winning and losing matter when playing a game?
Is rodeo cruel to animals?
Are you pro life or pro choice?
Is it alright to spank a child?
Do you believe in ghosts, spirits, and horoscopes?
How do you feel about gambling?
Should marijuana be legalized?
Is it okay to tell a lie and, if so, when?
Is doctor assisted suicide for the terminally ill a good law?
— Victoria News/