There’s a new intergenerational home sharing option in Denver and—like the others it joined—Odd Couples Housing is looking to leverage spare bedrooms across the greater metro area.
According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University (JCHS) in its report “State of the Nation’s Housing 2020,” households age 65 and over are increasing faster than any other age group. This same demographic drove 80 percent of the growth in single-person households from 2014 to 2019. Conservative estimates suggest Denver may have over 70,000 spare bedrooms in households described by these trends.
The JCHS report also lays bare two economic realities accompanying this trend:
“The share of homeowners age 65 and over with housing debt doubled from 1989 to 2019, from 21 to 42 percent, while the median outstanding balance rose from $18,000 to $86,000 (both in 2019 dollars) over the same period. Among owners age 80 and over, 27 percent were carrying mortgage debt in 2019, compared with 3 percent in 1989.”
In 2019, the number of older adult households paying more than a third of their income for housing reached an all-time high of 10.2 million.
And, as importantly, “Even before the pandemic, a record number of older households were cost burdened. In 2019, the number of older adult households paying more than a third of their income for housing reached an all-time high of 10.2 million. Fully half this group was severely burdened, spending more than 50 percent of their income on housing. Cost burdens are higher at older ages, for renters, and for owners with mortgages.”
And AARP’s “2021 Home and Community Preferences Survey” echoes what similar studies have pointed to in recent years: three-quarters of adults over 50 would like to stay in their current homes or communities as long as possible.
So, when Odd Couples Housing expanded into Denver this year, three years after its 2018 founding in St. Louis, it saw an opportunity to meet the needs of older homeowners while also trying to make a dent in the shortage of affordable housing. But it has come across the same challenges encountered by Sunshine Home Share Colorado—now in its fourth year of making matches. This organization was featured in November 2020’s The Denver North Star.
So far in 2021 both organizations report disappointingly low numbers of final home sharing matches (1 for Odd Couples Housing and 9 for Sunshine Home Share Colorado). Their pipelines of prospective seekers and homeowners have grown but getting people across the finish line has been a struggle.
For Odd Couples Housing Director of Colorado Development Erin Loughrey, the company has its work to do building name recognition in Denver. And according to Sunshine Home Share Executive Director Alison Joucovsky, MA, LPC, COVID-19 played a factor. Once vaccines became readily available, she saw an increase in the number of people coming to them. But the intake and vetting process can take up to 8 weeks, so it’ll take time to see how much the vaccine and subsequent boosters will impact homeowner interest. And with COVID-19 uncertainties continuing as one variant after another arrives on the scene, these matching processes will require more time on the front end for parties to explore compatibility around COVID-19 safety aspects of intergenerational living.
For both, home seekers greatly outnumber the homeowner side of the equation. Loughrey shared, “An owner who looks and then decides not to move forward sometimes decides they don’t want to share their home, they decide they don’t need help around the house, can grocery shop, take care of their yards, IT issues etc. or they just decide to wait.”
And so, both are gearing up to raise awareness about the benefits of home sharing and intergenerational living, and to grow the number of community connections that will help them accomplish this. Intergenerational and multi-family home sharing have been woven into the fabric of societies for generations—and are especially common outside the U.S.—but these newer facilitated models (versus looking to family or friends to find a roommate) are still finding their way to the right blend of outreach, vetting, and support.
Odd Couples Housing operates like an enhanced roommate matching service, adding background checks and a home sharing and personality survey to the proprietary matching algorithm, bringing it traction in the St. Louis area. Once a match is made, seekers pay a one-time $50 fee and homeowners pay a one-time $200 match fee as well as $25 monthly for the match membership program. The home seeker typically benefits from lower rent in exchange for light duties around the house such as grocery shopping, yard work, or help with homeowner IT issues.
Sunshine Home Share Colorado is a nonprofit organization and it’s matching program is grant-funded (including funding from the City of Denver’s Department of Housing Stability). Its matches are facilitated by master’s level geriatric social workers who are attuned to homeowners’ full range of needs. For example, a third of their matches last year were with homeowners over age 90, where the social worker’s assistance with care planning beyond light tasks around the house became invaluable. The home seeker in this arrangement also helps out around the house, but more significant assistance with things like bathing and transportation can be pieced together by Sunshine’s staff.
Joucovsky has seen opportunities to coordinate its in-depth services with online matching tools like Silvernest. Twice last year they were able to pick up where Silvernest leaves off, by adding their vetting and screening process to matches found online.
Randy Bulow of Oasis Senior Advisors is in the business of helping individuals and families weigh options for housing when living independently at home is becoming less practical. His industry has emerged to help people connect with the senior community that best meets their needs, and they typically receive a placement fee when they’ve been successful. Bulow sees a rise in small residential care homes, but he rarely gets questions about home sharing.
Loughrey hopes Denver will get there, as St. Louis seems to be: “Denver is similar to St. Louis in that we have several universities in and surrounding the metro area. We are both moderate-sized cities, though Denver is a bit larger. We wanted to expand to a city with a larger population but not a LA, NY, Chicago yet. Denver’s average age is a few years younger than the average age in St. Louis. We wanted to see how that would change our results. The number of people moving here is larger than St. Louis and we are becoming denser.”
More information about Odd Couples Housing and Sunshine Home Share Colorado can be found at:
Odd Couples Housing www.oddcoupleshousing.com 303-913-9421
Sunshine Home Share Colorado www.sunshinehomeshare.org 303-915-8264