Seniors can ease affordable housing waitlist: Councillor

·3 min read

Sharing is caring, and also a cheap and affordable way to live, according to one Chatham-Kent councillor.

On Monday, South Kent Coun. Mary Clare Latimer will be presenting council with a motion that staff investigate the implementation, maintenance and benefits of starting a Chatham-Kent Homeshare Program.

A homeshare program is when residents, most commonly seniors, open up their home to those in need of affordable housing. The idea is that an individual will help out a senior with their everyday needs in exchange for no rent or very low rent.

“It's a way where anyone can age comfortably and safely in their own home,” Latimer said. “Also I think it really addresses that isolation piece and intergenerational support as well. I really like that piece about it.”

Latimer said home sharing happens all the time in an informal way between family or friends. The program would be a more formal way to help connect individuals with someone they might not know.

“This may not be for everyone obviously. But it's another tool in the tool box.”

Latimer said Chatham-Kent remains a “housing first” champion, as also noted in her motion. There are currently 749 individuals on the waitlist for affordable housing, the majority of which have jobs but spend 30-40 per cent of their income on rent.

Latimer said there is a lot of underutilized real estate and infrastructure in Chatham-Kent with a lot of seniors living in houses that have two or three empty bedrooms.

“There are a lot of people (seniors) caught. They can't sell their home and buy another home. And they don't want to move into a retirement home because it's too expensive. They can't afford that without selling their home. So they're caught, there's nowhere to go.”

Other programs in Sarnia, Burlington and Toronto have been successful, according to preliminary research Latimer has done.

Most programs have started through connecting students with seniors. Latimer hopes to use that model and hopes to partner with St. Clair College to pair international students with residents.

Latimer does not expect the program will pick up quickly during COVID-19.

“But I think it's something we need to have there in our toolbox like I said, because it may be an option where people are at least considering it and they can look at it.”

Most programs have leases with clauses in them, such as a probation period, and include the terms of agreement like a normal rent agreement would. An example could be a lease that states the renter pays nothing and in exchange they must mow the lawn, do the groceries once a week and prepare meals everyday.

“It's really a fantastic way and economical way to live. And we've gotten away from that. You know our whole culture is to live independently but in other cultures, very much you live together and support each other financially and socially and emotionally.”

Latimer said it would be most appropriate to find a community partner to run the program and city staff should only enable it. If passed, staff will be expected to report back to council by January 2021 on the viability of such a program.

Jenna Cocullo, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chatham Voice