Submitted by Affordable Housing Alliance of the Ottawa Valley
The small Township of North Algona Wilberforce (NAW) is going to be the first in the Ottawa Valley to try a new homesharing service as a first step in addressing the affordable housing crisis. At its January meeting, NAW’s Township Council adopted a set of recommendations from the township’s Affordable Housing Committee, which was set up after a town hall meeting in October organized by the AffordableHousing Alliance of the Ottawa Valley (AHAOV).
The Township will be working with a Toronto-based company called Sparrow Share (scroll down for web link), which has developed a homesharing platform supported by a team working to match up people who have spare rooms in their homes they want to share with people who need homes.
“We are very excited about the potential here,” says NAW Special Projects Officer and AHAOV steering committee member Cameron Montgomery. “It can be a real benefit to older people with homes to share and tight budgets as well as for people young or old who need homes. We have been hearing from many people who could use a place to live and would be happy to help a homeowner with chores and home support.”
While she recognizes that the program only begins to address the affordable housing crisis, she feels it’s a good place to start. “We want to move quickly to develop plans for new housing, but in the meantime, there is surplus housing right here right now, people who need help in their homes, and people who need homes. So it’s a good first step, and if other municipalities and the County of Renfrew adopt it, we think it can snowball and help a lot of people for a very modest cost.”
The program works by getting homeowners and people seeking homes to register online, or with help from township staff if they have any difficulty using computers. Once participants are registered, Sparrow Share works to match up homeowners and people seeking homes based on profile compatibility and living preferences. Sparrow Share also conducts a thorough screening process and provides the legal agreement that clarifies and outlines the terms of the living arrangement for all parties. The service is paid for either by the homeowner or the sponsoring municipality or organization.
The CEO of Sparrow Share, Oren Singer, estimates there are 5 million empty bedrooms in Ontario and more than 12 million across Canada. “Most older homeowners want to live in their homes for as long as possible, but lack of retirement savings and rising living costs may pressure older adult homeowners to consider selling their homes as a means of generating extra funds,” he says. “However, people rarely talk about the hidden costs and stresses of downsizing. Homesharing presents an alternative solution —where homeowners rent out spare bedrooms in their home to like-minded long-term housemates in exchange for rent (and possibly added help around the house).”
While each homeshare is unique, he says, “There are common benefits throughout — homeowners benefit from extra income, companionship, and potential help with household chores. Housemates (renters) benefit from high-quality, budget-friendly, and flexible housing options. It’s a win-win for both parties.”
Singer says Sparrow Share strives to make homesharing safe, easy, and enjoyable through its platform service.
- Making it safe through identity, background, reference checks, and screening interviews to ensure every member is verified.
- Making it easy through customizable homesharing agreements, in-platform messaging, and a dedicated concierge team helps to create a more frictionless experience.
- Making it enjoyable, thanks to compatibility scoring against habits, lifestyle, and living preferences enables bringing like-minded people to live better together.
AHAOV and its local committees see homesharing as an important first step. NAW also adopted recommendations from the Affordable Housing Committee to:
- put out a call for residents interested in building accessory dwellings on their property, with the possibility for up to $30,000 compensation per room through CMHC funding if they sign a contract to provide rental at an affordable rate for a set period of time, and
- look at Township properties that could potentially be developed for affordable housing.
Meanwhile, Madawaska Valley Township has launched an Affordable Housing Advisory Committee, which had an initial meeting on January 11 with approximately 15 people. Committees are just getting going in the City of Pembroke and in the townships of Killaloe Hagarty Richards and Bonnechere Valley.
In addition to encouraging widespread adoption of the homesharing service, AHAOV is proposing to put as many municipalities as possible together in a joint application to CMHC to fund organizational development and new construction through its Affordable Housing Innovation Project. “We believe having five rural municipalities working together to deal with the affordable housing crisis is truly innovative as well as being an effective way to work,” says AHAOV organizer Ish Theilheimer. “If we are successful in applying for it, it will provide us with professional support to do some of the basic preliminary work as well as important financing.”
To get involved or learn more, email: AffordableHousingAllianceOV@gmail.com
To learn more about Sparrow Share: Click HERE to visit www.sparrowshare.com or email their team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Theilheimer,I.,AHAOV(2023,Jan.20) Homesharing service is a first step in finding affordable housing for local people [media release]
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