Following appropriations from the other three large local governments here, the Olympia City Council approved a request to partly fund the re-launch of Senior Services’ Home Share, a program that connects home providers with home seekers.
During the regular city council meeting on Wed., Sept. 14, Senior Services for South Sound Executive Director Brian Windrope spoke about his agency's request to re-launch what is being called a two-year “pilot program.” Senior Services previously operated the same kind of program until early 2020; The pilot program will launch with not only new funding but new staff – Senior Services is now recruiting for a full-time Home Share program manager and half-time coordinator.
Windrope explained that Home Share is a matchmaking service that connects home providers with home seekers, in exchange for an agreed rate or services, with at least one of the parties being a senior.
“Housing is unaffordable for many in our area,” Windrope said. To illustrate the growing disparity in housing costs, the executive director stated that in 2018, the average rent in Thurston County is at $1,187. For many senior residents, the most affordable subsidized rent available is at $700 a month.
On the other hand, the average social security payment within the state of Washington is at $1,600 with some receiving less at $1,200. This gives elderly residents less room to pay for other expenses such as food and medication. Windrope believes that the growing disparity and lack of affordable housing alternatives continue to affect senior residents. Some 18 percent of the county’s population is age 65 or older; that's about 54,000 individuals.
How does it work?
To find a match, the director explained that the staff conducts intensive background screening to make sure that both the homeowner and the home-seekers are compatible. Rooms that are included in the Home Share program have lower rental fees than the average housing costs, and typically range from $400-$600 per month.
“Dollar for dollar, you can’t add housing for any more cheaply than Home Share can, because you’re not building anything. It uses existing housing stock,” Windrope told The JOLT.
Windrope shared that the program “supports seniors typically staying in their homes...where they end up living alone with the death of a spouse, the kids have left long ago and they can struggle to pay the bills...and loneliness...so it helps keep seniors and it provides housing to typically not always, younger people who are struggling to find housing by using existing housing infrastructure.”
During the discussion, Mayor Pro Tem Clark Gilman noted, “As somebody becoming a senior...one reason to support this is through our housing needs assessment work. We saw that we have a distribution problem, we have a lot of older folks living in single-family homes.” He added, “It is a small step towards filling up these empty bedrooms in a time when we desperately needed more housing.”
Program can re-launch quickly
Although Senior Services’ previous program ended almost two years ago this one isn’t starting from scratch. Windrope explained that “we have a list, we get calls every week from people asking about it,” including prospective hosts and potential tenants.
As the physical housing already exists, there can be a minimal delay for individuals matched by the service to settle in.
Lacey got the program re-started
Olympia granted $27,000 to complete funding the two-year pilot budget of $190,000. Other cities within the county previously committed at different levels. Lacey led the effort to relaunch the program with a contribution of $95,000, according to Windrope. Tumwater has agreed to provide $18,000, and the Regional Housing Council committed $50,000.