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HomeShare Clark County, WA wants to pair renters with senior citizens who own homes

Co-chair asks: “How do we make it safe and culturally acceptable?”

By Mia Ryder-Marks, Columbian staff reporter, and
Alexis Weisend, Columbian staff reporter
Published: February 27, 2024, 6:07am

Cue “The Golden Girls” theme song: To combat the housing crisis, a Clark County group wants to pair seniors with people seeking a place to live.

Seniors on fixed incomes and young people confronted with high rents are in the demographics most affected by rising costs. Members of HomeShare Clark County, WA are spreading the word about their program in hopes of finding more seniors to volunteer their homes.

“In the ’20s and ’30s, housing a boarder in your home wasn’t unusual,” Deanna Eichler, co-chair of HomeShare Clark County, WA, told women gathered in a church community room earlier this month. “How do we make it safe and culturally acceptable?”

The women from various faith groups gathered to brainstorm how they can market this creative way to alleviate Vancouver’s housing crisis.

To learn more

If you want to list or learn more about sharing your home, contact www.faithpartners4housing.org or text/call 360-702-2796.

“It’s a reciprocal arrangement to put people who have space to share with people who are seeking a more affordable place,” Eichler said.

HomeShare’s approach doesn’t involve building more housing or tweaking any zoning laws. Instead, it uses existing resources.

“We’re fighting to release all this affordable housing that’s already distributed throughout Clark County,” Eichler said.

In 2022, 1,187 of the 9,000 people experiencing homelessness were 55 and older. According to data from the Washington Center for Real Estate Research, average apartment rents have increased about 35 percent in the last five years.

The nonprofit, which takes inspiration from its Oregon chapter, uses a system to help connect homeowners with renters in need of an affordable unit. The organization runs a background check and facilitates conversations about what each person is looking for in a roommate or a friend.

“People want to age in place, and this has become a real challenge (with) the rising burden of housing costs and housing upkeep,” Eichler said. “This can really open the door to it being easier for folks to age in place.”

HomeShare is seeking Clark County residents who have space to share. Both homeowners and people seeking accommodation can apply.

But the strategy stretches beyond alleviating the financial squeeze on residents. It also has mental health benefits, organizers said.

About 50 percent of individuals age 60 and older are at risk of social isolation, and one-third will experience some degree of loneliness later in life, according to the National Library of Medicine.

“We’re human, and humans are social creatures. We do better around people,” Eichler said. “I believe the pandemic really showed us that we are all connected and that we need each other.”

Community Funded Journalism logo

This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.