Youth Action urging trial of homeshare with older Australians

Students and young workers could move in with older Australians — exchanging household assistance for free or subsidised rent.

 

Youth Action, the New South Wales peak youth affairs body, today released a detailed policy paper outlining how the homeshare model could assist with addressing chronic shortages of affordable housing, particularly in Sydney, while also assisting older Australians who want to remain in their family home.

 

Homeshare: an affordable housing alternative, recommends that the NSW Government pilot a program, with funding for a not-for-profit body to operate the service and the creation of specific legislation for ‘lodger’s agreements’ that outline the rights of homeowners and young boarders.

 

The program would match older Australians or people with a disability who require some assistance to live independently in their own homes, with people seeking affordable housing.

 

In return for providing up to 10 hours a week of help with tasks such as cooking meals, doing household chores, shopping, transport or minor household maintenance, the homesharer would receive either free or low-rent accommodation.

 

Youth Action managing director Katie Acheson said that by improving on similar models already operating interstate and internationally, it was possible to address housing issues impacting on two diverse sectors of the community.

 

“Surging property prices have made it increasingly hard for many young people to find affordable housing close to their places of work and education,” Ms Acheson said.

 

“An ageing population has also seen a rise in the number of individuals or couples living in homes designed for a larger family, leaving much of our housing stock under-utilised.

 

“While these older Australians may be asset rich, many are unable to afford to pay for assistance around the house that would allow them to age comfortably in their own home.”

 

The paper highlights the success of Homeshare programs in the UK, Europe, and the USA, while outlining how a “new and improved” model could be tailored to the needs of NSW.

 

It recommends the NSW Government pilot a model, providing funding for a not-for-profit organisation to manage the process.

 

This organisation would interview potential participants, assess their needs, match appropriate homeowners with young people, arrange property inspections, conduct criminal record and reference checks, create agreements outlining agreed tasks and living costs, and provide ongoing support, supervision and mediation of any issues that arise.

 

The model proposed by Youth Action seeks to learn from existing programs, as well as the specific concerns of potential participants, to create a new and improved Homeshare scheme.

 

Recommendation to facilitate this new model include:

  • a legislative framework to protect participants, combining elements from the Residency Tenancy Act and the Boarding Houses Act to create ‘lodger’s agreements’ that set the parameters of the individual homeshare arrangement

  • education about what to expect when living in an intergenerational household, incorporated in the initial interview stage

  • a sliding payment scale, where homeowners that require less assistance also benefit from a small financial contribution from the homesharer

  • negotiated flexibility for the homesharer to have agreed nights away from the household

  • a trial period of three months in case the match isn’t working

  • opening up the scheme to couples

  • funding for Homeshare services or operators to successfully match people

  • the creation of ‘lodging payments’ for young people, in place of Rent Assistance, to assist with contributions to bills and food.

Ms Acheson said the Homeshare model offered a potential solution for many young people who currently find it difficult to maintain jobs, study or save for their own homes, because of an inability to access affordable housing.

 

“A survey of young people conducted by Youth Action found 65 per cent of those still living in their family home felt they could not afford to move out, even if they wanted to,” she said.

 

“More than half of respondents said they would consider a Homeshare arrangement with someone aged over 65, while 72 per cent said they would consider living with a person with a disability.

 

“The model is particularly appealing to young people from rural or regional areas, who move into large cities to study or work, but don’t have the option of living at home.”

 

See the policy document, Homeshare: an affordable housing alternative at http://youthaction.org.au/about/media-policies/homeshare-an-affordable-housing-alternative/

 

22 May 2015.