Housing / 2013

Shared Housing Helps Los Angeles Become a National Model!

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Affordable Living for the Aging

In addition to rising healthcare costs and lower public benefits for vulnerable populations, the most taxing cost burden on older adults is housing. Today, approximately 13 million older Americas cannot afford their housing costs. Many are forced to choose between paying their mortgage or rent and buying groceries or medicine. In response, ALA is leading a national effort to expand its shared housing program so that all individuals in need have access to safe and supportive housing options as they age. Although particularly beneficial for seniors on fixed incomes and those risking isolation, the shared housing movement goes beyond addressing the needs of any single user group. Shared housing provides opportunities for anyone interested in fostering social connections and remaining integrated in their community while accessing affordable housing. When a program is delivered by an experienced housing or social service agency, the model is also well suited for supporting veterans, single mothers and other vulnerable individuals. Shared housing is a simple idea. One individual, typically a homeowner, offers accommodation to another in exchange for rent, help around the house or light caregiving support. Home “sharees” have access to a blend of private and communal space. Even when the primary motivation for sharing is financial, many individuals enjoy the added benefits of companionship and shared responsibilities that come with cooperative living. ALA is positioned to build upon our four decades of experience to scale our shared housing program for the benefit of more individuals and entire communities. To attract a wider audience of home sharers, ALA will create a compelling and engaging viral and social media campaign that emphasizes the benefits of shared housing. The campaign will stimulate interest among potential sharers and spark conversations about how communities can use shared housing to achieve their affordable housing goals. ALA staff, in partnership with the Enterprise Community Foundation, will continue to train and educate other agencies who will help support the increased demand for services.

What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

In the 35 years since ALA was founded, we have helped more than 30,000 seniors in their search for safe, stable housing that preserves their dignity and independence and keeps them engaged in their communities.

Our most significant achievement to date is partnering with the National Shared Housing Resource Center to lead the revival of the shared housing movement by rebuilding the Center’s capacity and launching a national campaign to strengthen existing programs.

Through a collaborative six-month process ALA worked with stakeholders from around the country to develop the Strategic Guide on Scaling Shared Housing, which highlights the exciting work happening in the field and identifies the new opportunities for growth. For example, New York City used shared housing as a disaster response solution in the wake of super storm Sandy.

With the support of Enterprise Community Partners and the Archstone Foundation, ALA hosted a Shared Housing Symposium that convened leaders from Illinois, Vermont, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, Michigan and California to launch the Strategic Guide and discuss ideas for reinvigorating this decades-old movement.

Helpful links: Strategic Guide on Scaling Shared Housing: https://www.alaseniorliving.org/files/attachments/HIGH%20Res%20ALA%20Strategic%20Guide.pdf

How New York City used Shared Housing during Hurricane Sandy: https://www.airbnb.com/sandy?utm_source=March+2013+eNews&utm_campaign=March+2013+eNewsletter&utm_medium=socialshare

The National Shared Housing Resource Center wrote about ALA’s Shared Housing Symposium here: http://nationalsharedhousing.org/shared-housing-symposium-in-los-angeles/

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

ALA will enlist the participation of organizations like SHARE!, New Directions, and CoAbode, as well as other housing coalitions interested in offering shared housing services in their communities and participating in the public education campaign.

ALA’s award winning board member, Renee Fraser of Fraser Communications, will work with ALA and its partners to create a compelling and impactful communications strategy. With Fraser Communications’ expertise, for every dollar ALA spends, we will get an extra dollar or more of media for free.

At the national level, ALA works closely with the National Shared Housing Resource Center, which has the infrastructure necessary to spread lessons learned in LA to a network of programs.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

The project will measure success using client metrics and social engagement. ALA and its partners will track outputs such as unique visits to agency websites and the volume of calls before, during and after initiation of the project. To evaluate increased awareness and a shift in attitude toward shared housing, ALA will use the number of new program enrollees as a measureable outcome. Engagement metrics will measure the means by which the message is reaching a broader audience (social media, public relations activity, advertising or other). Measures will also look at the quantity and profile of individuals who are responding to shared housing campaign-related content.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

LA’s future as a thriving metropolis relies on providing a housing supply that supports individual stability, keeps people connected to the places where they live, and makes communities more vibrant, diverse and supportive. Shared housing does this by capturing the inventory of available units, rather than relying solely on the production of new units.

A staggering 73% of low-income homeowners and 93% of low-income renters spend more than 30% of their income on housing. By pursuing shared housing as a strategy to address affordability challenges, the project will close the gap between inadequate income and the high cost of housing. In 2012, individuals enrolled in ALA’s shared housing program reduced their rents costs by an average of 50%.

Moreover, Los Angeles sets trends for the rest of the nation. With a strong shared housing program, we have the opportunity to become a national model for integration - rather than marginalization - of vulnerable populations.

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

Safe, affordable, emotionally uplifting homes are the cornerstone of a strong community. By 2050, Los Angeles has the potential to become a thriving network of neighborhoods where people can access a variety of housing types that match their current situation. Success would also include widespread understanding of the benefits of shared living as a way to meet people’s unique needs at every stage of their life.

Society’s notion of housing and independence is closely associated with privacy and security. Increased adoption of shared housing faces real and perceived boundaries. Success is dependent upon effectively training other agencies to deliver quality shared housing services, which will help counter negative misconceptions about shared housing.

The Shared Housing campaign will help inspire interest and participation in the flexibility and benefits of home sharing while at the same time encouraging individuals and communities to become more compassionate towards and supportive of the vulnerable populations among us.