Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Bridging the Housing Affordability Gap

The gap between seniors struggling to maintain their homes and young people not able to rent accommodations let alone own a house is one that a Grace United Church outreach program is attempting to bridge.

A special ministry of the Grace United Church in Thornbury is undertaking to match seniors living alone with young people in need of accommodations under a new ministry called Georgian Bay Home Share. The program is open to everyone, it is not limited to members of the church’s congregation.

Shared housing: Home providers, home seekers

Program team leader Diana Dolmer recently provided Census 2021 statistics in a church ministry report that indicate more than a third (34.2%) of the Town of the Blue Mountains population is age 65 or older; in Meaford, just under a third (31.3%).

Many seniors in this area are living alone in their homes,” the report states. “They are lonely and need companionship and are having difficulty maintaining their homes. They are isolated because of a lack of transportation. With inflation rates so high, some need to supplement their finances to cover the increase in household expenses. They would feel safer and more secure having someone living with them. Some must leave their homes unwillingly and go to a seniors’ residence.”

Meanwhile young people struggle to find affordable rental accommodations “especially those working in the service industry,” the report states. “According to the United Way of Grey Bruce in March 2022, to afford a market rent of $1,500 per month for a one-bedroom rental, a household must earn $60,000 per year or $32.96 per hour with a 35-hour work week.”

The ministry report refers to home sharing as a win/win situation for seniors and young people. “Home seekers and home providers share living space within a home. There is sharing of household work and expense with an exchange of services in lieu of some rent. The benefits of this arrangement are a mutual sharing of talents and abilities, culture, family and friends, interests and activities, and the support and encouragement for each other. This will result in a safety net and an increase in the health and welfare of both individuals.”

The ministry will use a team approach to match home seekers with home providers. The team will receive referrals, process applications, conduct in-depth interviews, and conduct a home visit to the home provider. The team will complete reference checks and police checks, draft the Memorandum of Understanding of Living Arrangement, and provide on-going support.

The first step would be to have person-to-person conversations with the home providers and home seekers,” Dolmer said, “Then have them fill out an application form that describes what home providers and home seekers are looking for. We would probably then come to the home provider’s house to have a look, find a match, and draw up a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU is very detailed and spells out all the things the home provider and home seeker agree to, for example what furnishings the seeker will bring into the home, who is going to do what chores, and what to do and who to contact in case of emergency.”

The ministry is currently looking for funding for the program from United Church of Canada Foundation as well as congregation members and local organizations to promote the program on an ongoing basis.

For more information, email georgianbayhomeshare@gmail.com, or call Diana Dolmer at 519-378-4734.

 

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