An 85-year-old woman wanted to stay in Bergen County – where she had lived her whole life – but could no longer afford the region’s expensive rents on her fixed income.
With her housing search nearing a dead end, she sought help from the Shared Housing program run by the
Women’s Rights Information Center in Englewood.
The program’s director interviewed her and asked for references before recommending she share the home of an Englewood woman who, despite working full-time, was struggling to keep up with all of her monthly bills.
Despite a 20-year difference in their ages, the two women bonded quickly, amazed to discover they belonged to the same church.
The decades-old Shared Housing program has long been the only non-profit in Bergen County to serve as a matchmaker between overburdened homeowners and home-seekers priced out of the traditional housing market. Many of those home-seekers have as little as $500 to $700 a month to spend on housing – far below market-rate rents – but perhaps enough to help ease the financial strain of a homeowner feeling the pinch.
Thanks to two new grants, one from Women United in Philanthropy and the other from the Bergen County Division of Senior Services, the Shared Housing program is expanding, hoping to increase both its reach and its services.
The program’s part-time director, Susan Bendes is now being assisted by a new full-time housing adviser, Paula Madera.
The program – open to men and women of any age – helps prospective roommates identify and avoid potential conflicts by completing a detailed housing agreement together, spelling out everything from kitchen use to music playing. And if necessary, the Shared Housing staff is available to guide clients who need help resolving roommate conflicts once they are living together.
With the additional grant money, Bendes hopes to incorporate standard background checks for all new matches and to add follow-up services at 3, 6 and 9 months. Bendes also wants to increase outreach efforts in the hope of persuading more struggling homeowners to consider such an arrangement.
“We find homeowners can be very reluctant to opening their home to someone they don’t know, even if they are finding it difficult to get by on their own,” Bendes said.
Home-sharing can be a creative solution to the region’s shortage of affordable housing, as well as a needed support system for an older homeowner, who in some cases, can also negotiate help with unmanageable chores in exchange for a reduced sharing fee.
But advocates for older adults say formal guidance and support, like the kind offered by this program, is often needed for such arrangements to be successful.
To learn more about the program, call 201-568-1166, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or log onto www.womensrights.org/shared-housing
Who We Are
Age-Friendly Teaneck formed in 2016 with this mission in mind: A great place to grow up should be a great place to grow old.