Having an extra bedroom could be part of the solution to Oregon’s housing crisis.
Home Share Oregon brings homeowners with empty spaces together with potential tenants. The program uses an online matchmaking platform where homeowners and renters can investigate each other to fill empty bedrooms.
The program and its supporters say it is a way to reduce the low supply of housing in the state.
Home Share was founded in 2019 and is connected to Portland-based Oregon Harbor of Hope. It is backed by the Oregon Legislature, which introduced an incentive to reduce property tax for homeowners during the 2019 legislature – but only with the approval of the county governments.
No county governments have signed up for the pilot so far, although the program lobbies officials in counties like Lane because supporters say it could increase homeowner participation and not affect tax revenue.
Tess Fields, program manager for shared apartments, tells Eugene Weekly that the program is serving the unsafe homes in Oregon, such as: B. Students, people with minimum wages, and people 55 and over who may own a home but are either trying to retire early or just pay off their mortgage with the rental income. “It’s a way of marrying two populations to meet both needs,” she adds.
Home Share uses the Silvernest online platform for matchmaking homeowners and tenants. The matchmaking website is similar to Airbnb or Match.com. According to Fields, the website brings together homeowners and renters with similar interests or lifestyles, such as vegans who want a meat-free home, or non-smokers or people who focus on cleanliness.
Participants can also do background checks through the website. And when the rent is paid online, an insurance policy is included – $ 100,000 for homeowners and $ 10,000 for renters, Fields says. Home Share pays off for Silvernest so it is available for free to Home Share users.
According to Fields, around 148 people across the state have signed up on the site and Lane County is the most active county in the state with a total of 38, including 15 homeowners. Users are also signing up for the program across southern Oregon and Deschutes County.
White Bird Clinic operations coordinator Heather Sielicki said the first time she heard about Home Share was at a neighborhood meeting. Although White Bird advertised the program on social media and on its website, Sielicki did not use it for clients to avoid overwhelming demand from tenants on Home Share, according to Sielicki.
Sielicki said the program could benefit the growing population of elderly people at risk of losing their Lane County homes. And the program could help the elderly who she says have expressed their intention to age in the homes they have lived in for so many years. “You don’t want to live in one [nursing] home, ”she says. “If you could help people age them in their homes, people would be happier.”
According to Fields, Home Share has pre-signed leases that can be used to complete chores in exchange for reduced rents and that help win the program for older homeowners who may need a hand in the house.
Fields says she recently spoke to someone whose mother lived alone in Roseburg in her seventies. “You don’t want to sell the property. She doesn’t want to go into assisted living, ”she says. “He’s just trying to find someone who needs an apartment that is open to mowing the grass, making sure the trash is taken away, and making sure someone is in the house with her if his mother falls. He would be willing to take reduced rents. “
During the 2019 legislature, Oregon legislature approved Senate Draft 1045, which allowed county governments to pay less property taxes for up to 500 participating homeowners across the state, and gave counties the ability to individually limit participating homes. The law allows a city or county to provide a property tax exemption that does not exceed the estimated value of $ 300,000. Unless extended by lawmakers, the bill will cease to exist on January 31, 2027 and expire on January 2, 2029. The bill was passed unanimously by the Senate, but representatives from Eugene and Springfield voted against in the House, with the exception of Rep. Marty Wilde, who it was a sponsor of the bill.
Although no counties will benefit from the subsidy, Home Share is speaking to officials in Coos, Multnomah, Deschutes and Lane counties. Fields says she will continue to speak to county officials with new commissioners across the state about the benefits of the program.
Sielicki says she spoke to Lane County’s officers Joe Berney, Heather Buch, and Pat Farr, and that they were interested in real estate tax aid. “Honestly, what I think to get popular in Lane County is the tax break program,” Sielicki adds.
In January 2020, the Lane County, Devon Ashbridge, EW spokesman announced that the county had no plans to introduce property tax relief. Home Share was at a joint working session of the Eugene City Council and Lane County Board of County Commissioners. Current CEO Berney said the program could be a way to develop a systems approach to housing.
At the meeting, Sarai Johnson, city and county strategist for housing and homelessness, said she was excited about Home Share. However, in December 2020, Johnson told EW that she could not comment on the program because the city and county had not taken an official stand to endorse the program.
Berney tells EW that he first heard about the program from Sielicki. He says it is a way to address the county’s housing shortage. “While we are not addressing the structural imbalance in our housing market, it is a reasonable approach of common sense to connect people who need to rent a room with those who want to rent a room in their home for whatever the reason “Says Berney,” be it that income, society is needed in a relatively isolated time or just because they want to help in a way that makes sense for them and their lives. “
Speaking to the county tax officer, Berney said the tax officer told him it was his job to generate income for the county, so given the potential impact it could have on property tax revenues, he was initially not thrilled with the idea. But he would be open to exploring.
“Personally, I think this program should be followed up and made available,” says Berney. “And I don’t think the number of people who participate in Home Share just for property tax benefits would make that much difference.”
Although many Oregon counties may be concerned about property tax revenues during an economic recession, Fields said the property tax cap would mean that counties would incur minimal costs in offering homeowners a subsidy that “disrupts the housing market”.
Home Share is also about breaking the rejection of intergenerational life by American culture in order to offer more affordable housing while tapping into an untapped housing supply, Fields says.
“In many parts of the country, affordable housing is difficult to access. It’s difficult to access here in Oregon, ”she says. “This is really about using the existing inventory in terms of development and housing and putting it in a situation that will help solve the housing crisis.”
More information is available at HomeShareOregon.org.