Home sharing, backyard cottages and renting out rooms help seniors find housing – San Bernardino Sun

Bobbie Hill has been renting out rooms in her two-story Claremont house since her first child went off to college more than 25 years ago.

Since then, at least 120 college students have boarded in her 112-year-old Craftsman-style home, helping the 82-year-old make ends meet. She now has five tenants, including her ex-husband, an artist who rents a backyard cottage and displays his sculptures throughout the property.

“I don’t have a retirement,” Hill said. “I’m totally dependent on my Social Security and my business of renting rooms to students.”

Hill said she loves her interactions with young people, saying it makes her feel optimistic for the future. Her tenants say Hill is more mentor than landlord.

“If I ever have a problem, Bobbie is really willing to help,” said Tatiana Woliung, 24, a student at Claremont Graduate University. “It’s good for me. I can get along with people who aren’t my age.”

Claremont Graduate University students Wen Wei, 26, left, and Tatiana Woliung, 24, hang out in Bobbie Hill’s artsy upstairs kitchen, one of two in Hill’s  house across from the street from the Claremont campus. Hill and her grandson, Wyatt, 21, share their property with three upstairs tenants, one downstairs tenant and her ex-husband, who has rented a backyard cabin for the past two years. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

Hill’s house in leafy Claremont is an example of the unconventional housing solutions already surfacing throughout Southern California and across the country as society ages.

Demographers project Southern California’s senior population will grow by 1.2 million by 2030 and by an additional 852,000 the decade after that. The population of people younger than 65, meanwhile, will shrink steadily over the next 40 years.

By 2060, projections show, there will be close to 5.5 million people over 65, or 29% of the region’s total population.

As the region ages, housing options will evolve, with some seniors needing more support in their homes and others on fixed incomes struggling with finances.

Intergenerational living will become common, sometimes with kin moving in together to share duties and expenses, sometimes with seniors renting rooms to non-family members in exchange for help around the house. Home sharing and co-living will become more conventional. And one agency is experimenting with a backyard cottage program that saves some seniors from homelessness.

A website called Silvernest helped Jocelyn McCormick, 78, find a roommate after her husband died last spring.

The online site pairs home seekers with people with rooms for rent. Some services on the site are free, although it charges a monthly fee for extras like background checks and sample lease agreements.

McCormick, who retired from publishing nine years ago, logged onto the site, created a profile and soon had a dozen responses to sift through. She ultimately chose a woman in her mid-50s who, like McCormick, spent much of her life abroad.

“I plan to travel next year, and I wanted somebody to be in the apartment,” McCormick said. “We don’t have to be best friends, but (I wanted) somebody I liked and could have a glass of wine with.”

Established in 2016, Silvernest has yet to turn a profit. But a growing wave of retirees could prove to be big business for Silvernest, Nesterly and other home-sharing websites down the road.

“There are a lot of people that are either on fixed incomes or working toward retirement,” said Riley Gibson, Silvernest president. “They have extra space in their homes, but more and more of their money is just going toward food and shelter. Home sharing can be just one of many ways for older adults to unlock some passive income.”

Home sharing is not new.

The non-profit Affordable Living for the Aging Home Share program has been around since 1978, finding roommates for about 2,500 senior Angelenos over the past four decades.

The average age of home providers is 75, while home seekers average 65 years old. The average rent is $600 a month, and arrangements can include a combination of rent and tasks like cooking, cleaning or transportation.

“Home providers who could use extra income in order to make ends meet … or who need assistance with light household tasks, and companionship, can be matched with roommates to provide that gap in services and help the homeowner remain living in place,” said ALA Home Share Director Miriam Hall. “Housing seekers benefit because they are securing housing in their price range when there are really no other options.”

Hall screens, matches and monitors home providers and seekers to make sure they’re compatible.

While home-sharing websites don’t provide such services, Gibson said, they do provide online advice and security tips to help users find a suitable match.

“It’s not something to rush into,” said Gibson. “It’s something people should take time with and interview a number of different people.”

Another program matched seniors facing homelessness with accessory dwelling units, or granny flats. A grant to the city of Los Angeles funded a pilot project, providing rent subsidies to tenants and qualified renters and ongoing support to landlords. The program matched 32 seniors with 25 homeowners before the funding ran out. Operators now are looking for new backers.

“This program has the potential to really make an impact on the housing crisis that we have with older adults,” said Jenna Hauss, CEO for ONEgeneration, the San Fernando Valley senior services center that ran the program. “These are buildings that are already all over the place in Los Angeles, and we’re using those to house seniors.”

Such programs hold promise, but still tend to be small, said Laura Trejo, director of the Los Angeles County Aging and Disabilities Department.

“We have to start thinking: How will we grow this?” Trejo said. “And how will we scale it to meet the needs of the community?”

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