Q: What is homeshare?

Homeshare is a very simple idea. It is essentially an exchange of services. A householder offers accommodation to a homesharer in exchange for an agreed level of help. The householder may need help with the household tasks, or some financial support, or a combination of both. Homeshare recognises that two people have needs and something to offer.

Homeshare programmes are run by not-for-profit agencies which:

  • aim to meet identified needs within their own communities;
  • provide guidelines for the operation of the programme;
  • manage the applications process. Often they screen applicants, match them individually and provide support.

No two homeshare programmes are exactly alike, but there are many common threads:

  • many homeshare programmes aim to enable older people to remain independent in their own homes by finding a homesharer willing to offer support or a modest income;
  • many programmes have been set up to meet the accommodation needs of students in places where accommodation is scarce or expensive;
  • some homeshare programmes have been set up to promote solidarity between older and younger generations;

some homeshare programmes cater for the needs of disabled people.

Q: What can homeshare offer?

Homeshare is a very flexible concept. It can meet many needs and be adapted to different countries, cultures and circumstances. Homesharing is already benefiting:

  • elderly people
  • disabled people
  • single parents
  • people who need additional income
  • younger people, including students
  • the community as a whole

For elderly people
Many older people live alone. They may find that family and friends are too far away to give the help, companionship and security they need. Some may find it a struggle to maintain their independence at home, yet do not want to move into alternative accommodation such as a care home. Even if they can survive alone, they may want a better quality of life in their own homes. Perhaps they need some additional income; perhaps they just want someone to share their lives.

The needs of elderly people vary, but some of the most common include:

  • help with household tasks such as cooking, shopping, cleaning, gardening, and caring for pets
  • companionship and friendship
  • personal care – for those who are more dependent
  • security – for example having someone in the house at night
  • an additional source of income

The first homeshare match in London brought together an elderly lady who needed help to care for her dog and a young New Zealander

Homeshare protects the autonomy of elderly people. It builds self-esteem by reminding older people how much they have to give. And, given that most homesharers are younger people, it develops respect, empathy, and understanding between the generations.

For younger people
Younger people, with limited funds, often move to a new city – or country – to study or find work. Homesharing can offer:

low cost and secure accommodation
companionship, especially if they have no family or friends in their new home area
help to learn or practice a new language – and understand a different culture – if they have moved to a new country
Many younger people who take part in homeshare programmes have a particular empathy with older people. And who can put a value on the wisdom and experience of life imparted by an older person?

You can post a message on our Forum if you want to share your experiences of homesharing.

For single parents
For single parents, homesharing can provide help with expenses, childcare, and the security of having another adult in the home. A growing number of shared housing programmes in the United States are helping single parents find homesharers.

For people who need additional income
Homesharing can support people whose over-riding need is extra income. Older people receive little financial support in some countries where homeshare operates. In countries where pensions are better, some householders may still need additional income and the rent from a spare room can help.

For disabled people
Disabled people are increasingly living independent lives but many still welcome help in the home or the security of a live-in companion. Homesharing can support physically or mentally disabled people, either as a stand-alone service or as part of a package of care.

For communities
Homeshare is a simple idea with enormous potential to respond to many of today’s social trends – such as:

  • the ageing population and the growth of one-person households
  • the geographical dispersion of family units
  • the rising numbers of younger people in higher education
  • the growing prevalence of younger people studying and working in a foreign country
  • the rise in the proportion of disabled people living in the community
  • the rising numbers of single parent families

Because each Homeshare match is unique and personal to those involved, there are often hidden benefits where both parties gain much more than they expected.

Q: How does homeshare work?

Homeshare works along slightly different lines in different places.

All homesharers receive their own room in the householder’s home, plus shared use of the kitchen and bathroom and often the sitting room and garden as well. What they offer in exchange varies.

In many homeshare arrangements, the homesharer offers a service in exchange for accommodation.

  • In England, most homesharers give ten hours of service per week to the householder.
  • In some countries householders are quite independent and need only a little help, but do need some extra income. They may offer accommodation in exchange for rent or a combination of rent and services.
  • In Germany and Austria, the younger homesharers give one hour of help per month for every square metre of their room, plus a small rent.
  • In the Czech Republic, householders receive a combination of rent and services.
  • In the USA, where homesharing is the most established of any country, arrangements are diverse. However, most programmes involve both a rental payment and a service exchange.

Some other approaches
In Spain, homeshare programmes are being run in universities where student accommodation is scarce. The underlying aims are to solve students’ accommodation problems and to promote solidarity between the generations at the same time. A clear distinction is made between elderly householders who are more independent (Type A matches) and those who need more care (Type B). However, Type B matches are rare. Student homesharers receive accommodation and, if they are caring for a dependent elderly person, a small payment.