February 10, 2015
By Andrew Segedin
Staff Writer |
The Montclair Times
With affordable-housing options for local seniors at a premium, HomeSharing Inc. launched operations in Montclair.
HomeSharing, according to Lifelong Montclair Project Director Katie York, is an organization that works to match homeowners looking to share their homes with seekers who are looking for affordable-housing opportunities. The program has operated at the county-level in Middlesex, Hunterdon, Union, Morris and Somerset counties, according to York. Montclair is the program’s first individual municipality.
Upon taking her post at Lifelong Montclair – a local aging-in-place initiative – York said that many Montclairites expressed to her that a primary barrier toward staying in Montclair is housing affordability.
Having spoken with HomeSharing Executive Director Lisa Blum, York said that it became a matter of seeking a grant through Partners for Health, a local nonprofit that will provide $227,000 through the next three years to administer the program.
Members of the Montclair community wrote to Partners for Health in support of the program, according to York.
“I think it can help a lot of people,” York said of the program. “It can help people in a variety of ways, in a variety of situations. It’s a matter of getting the word out.”
HomeSharing is unique, York said, in that, while arrangements can be financially driven, agreements between providers and seekers may also include services such as car rides, cooking, landscaping, and cleaning, making shared-housing agreements similar to bartering.
In addition to receiving money or services, York said that participating seniors may also benefit from the companionship and security associated with having somebody living with them.
In its 30 years of existence, HomeSharing has made 1,600 matches, according to Noa Margolin, the HomeSharing social worker assigned to Montclair. HomeSharing’s social workers are responsible for matching providers with seekers, along with making sure agreements are followed, Margolin said.
Interested providers and seekers go through an application process, explained Margolin, in which social workers match both parties based on location, price, personality, and other criteria. Though Montclair has entered the program to address affordable housing for seniors, Margolin told The Montclair Times that HomeSharing works with providers and seekers as young as 18.
People interested in applying can call 908-526-4663, according to Margolin.
Montclair Senior Citizens Advisory Committee Chair Ann Lippel told The Montclair Times that she learned about HomeSharing through an Adult School of Montclair session presented by Blum, and she left in favor of the program.
“I was very impressed with the success over the years,” Lippel said. “This is a very promising alternative for people who want to stay in Montclair, but can’t find economically sustainable choices because of the housing stock we have here.”
As with York, Lippel said that the program offers seniors looking to stay in the township not only tax-free income, but companionship. While there is no requirement that the two parties become friends, Lippel said that Blum indicated that many pairings do become close.
Though pleased with the HomeSharing program coming to Montclair, Lippel said that the SCAC wants more housing built that would accommodate older adults.
Where the township stands
Township Planner Janice Talley told The Montclair Times that a municipal ordinance allows for up to two boarders in a single-family home provided there is only one kitchen area. “Single-family,” by municipal ordinance, refers to a single house-keeping unit, Talley said, which the HomeSharing arrangement would comply with. Talley said that she intends to draft additional standards for HomeSharing agreements.
While seeing the need and benefits of a HomeSharing program for seniors, Talley said that there are no plans to expand the program, to avoid enabling homes to be occupied by large numbers of college students such as a fraternity or sorority.
Contact Andrew Segedin at email@example.com