Free Program Lets Seniors Share Their Homes to Cut Costs
When it comes to deciding where to grow older in New York City, most experts suggest you “go with what you know.” By remaining in your current apartment or private home, you ensure continued access to your local pharmacies, grocery stores, mass transit lines and social circles. Of course, New York’s housing market is notoriously unpredictable and even outer-borough neighborhoods once considered safe havens from rising rents are seeing historic rent hikes, especially for people on low or fixed-incomes.
Sky-high rents are here to stay, but organizations like the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens (NYFSC) have developed a clever solution to this problem through their Home Share Program. NYFSC Vice President and Home Share administrator Kevin Queen presented this program during a recent Empowering Ethical Elders meeting on the Upper West Side, giving attendees an inside look into how the 20-year-old program has secured housing for more than 6,000 people.
The Home Share program is meant to create long-term living solutions where at least one person in each pair is age 60 or older. Participants are organized as either “hosts” – people with additional space in their home who might need help handling their bills, and “guests” – people looking for a stable, affordable living arrangement.
Queen, a social worker, was quick to explain that Home Share is not an Air BnB for your golden years. Both hosts and guests undergo a rigorous interview process meant to identify where they would like to live, what they can contribute to the home and who they would like to live with.
While the screening and search process can take some time, about 30 pairs are being matched annually. To the program’s credit none of the 3,000 pairings established through this system have been terminated prematurely.
The Nuts and Bolts
After a participant’s initial screening, their details are added to a database that finds like-minded individuals. NYFSC social workers work closely with each side of the agreement, first by organizing a telephone meeting between the two before graduating to an in-person meet and greet at the Host’s home.
If both Host and Guest are satisfied with the arrangement, NYFSC staff members draft a basic license agreement that outlines “house rules” like the frequency of visits by guests, whether food and chores are shared, and how common spaces will be arranged. These agreements typically last for six months to two years.
While most arrangements involve a Host receiving financial compensation towards rent and other household expenses, some younger Guests work a service component into their agreement, opting to perform household errands, cook, or provide other “in kind” services in exchange for some or all of their monthly contribution.
Beyond making initial introductions and drafting Guest/Host agreements, NYFSC social workers periodically check in with pairings during the first six months of their new arrangement, offering conflict resolution services and smoothing out the kinds of minor conflicts that can come with a shared living arrangement.
Getting Started in the Home Share Program
Queen said that enrolling in the process is as simple as contacting the NYFSC to schedule your first interview. Hosting an unrelated Guest in your apartment is completely legal in New York City, even in a rent-stabilized unity, provided they do not pay more than half of the unit’s rent.
If you are interested in participating as a Host or Guest, the NYFSC suggests you begin the process early – while it can take as little as a week to find a great living arrangement, the program prides itself on finding long-term, quality Guest/Host matches, meaning that it can take a few months to discover the best fit for a participant.
At SelectCare, we understand the challenges that come with growing older in New York City. Our staff of Home Care experts are always available, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to help you and your loved ones make the most of your senior years in the comfort and safety you deserve. We commend the efforts of the NYFSC for this inventive program and are constantly seeking new ways to improve the lives of our clients.