Spokane Journal of Business

Senior home-share project to launch

Project set to gear up in Kootenai County by July, advocates say

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A lack of affordable housing for local workers in Kootenai County has prompted community leaders to launch a new project matching senior homeowners who have extra space in their homes with local workers in need of housing.

The project is tentatively named HomeShare Kootenai County and is anticipated to be launched in late July by the Regional Housing & Growth Issues Partnership, says Coeur d’Alene city council member Kiki Miller, who also founded the project.

“Home sharing enables two or more unrelated people to share housing for their mutual benefit. One offers the other a private room in exchange for rent, help around the house, or a combination of the two,” Miller says in a press release.

Miller says the University of Idaho’s Housing Availability and Affordability Study for Kootenai County in December revealed a growing number of individuals have been displaced from local housing in the last 18 months, and the trend is expected to continue. 

She says the HomeShare Kootenai County project is one of a number of options the Regional Housing & Growth Issues Partnership has planned to address the housing crisis.

“With the crisis that we’re in, this could open up some inventory and help our seniors stay in their homes longer,” Miller says. “Some of the home shares would be part in-kind work where the tenant would agree to do some chores. Or a homeowner could feel more comfortable if they are a snowbird, with someone living in their house while they’re gone. Every match is going to be unique.”

The home-sharing project will operate initially out of the Hayden-based nonprofit ElderHelp of North Idaho and eventually may become its own nonprofit organization, Miller says. 

Many nonprofits will be involved in supporting the home-sharing project, including Community Action Partnership, and the Area Agency on Aging, which support seniors primarily, Miller says. Nonprofit organizations CDAIDE Inc. and Love Inc. also will support the home-share project through their connections to local workers in need of housing.

“Those nonprofits will be the conduits to match up empty nesters, seniors, or folks of any age who have the ability to say, ‘I want to participate in providing housing,’” Miller says. “So they’re able to be matched up, vetted, and profiled by ambassadors of the HomeShare Kootenai County project … to have a home seeker and homeowner feel confident and safe that they’re going to be good housemates.”

She says the Kootenai County home-share project will be the first in Idaho. It will follow guidelines from the National Housing Resource Center, which provides a model that other national home-share programs follow.

“We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel and put a lot of unknowns out there,” she adds.

Participants will be vetted, complete a background check, and will undergo a needs and wants assessment to help with successful housemate matches. Participants also will have the support of a mediator if the match isn’t working out.

She says plans to fund the home-sharing project are still in process, but there are a variety of funding methods to consider. “Part of it could be a management fee taken out of a minimal amount of rent for the homeowner. There are many grants that could start up the program.”

Research is underway to assess the number of rental properties available in Kootenai County as well as what the current need for rental housing is.

“What we’re focusing on is local workers. What we know is that we have had a huge influx of people into North Idaho, and we’d love to say there’s housing for everybody, but obviously there’s a national crisis. Our focus is to provide housing for people who have to live where they work. That would be like our public safety workers, hospitality workers, our teachers, people who can’t work remotely, aren’t retired, aren’t using a second-home property, that’s our focus.”

Miller says the nonprofit CDAIDE works with hospitality workers, a high percentage of whom are renters. “We know there’s a need in a tourist town to support that industry, and we’re hoping this could be one of the ways we can do that.”

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Erica Bullock
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Reporter Erica Bullock has worked at the Journal since 2019 and covers real estate and construction. She is a craft beer enthusiast, who loves to garden and go camping with friends.

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