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  • Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine

Home Sharing Match-up

Are you an empty nester or someone who finds themselves rattling around a house that suddenly seems too big? You’ve thought about renting out that spare room, but having a stranger in your home makes you uneasy.

Enter the Home Sharing Match-up Program. Run by Napa Valley Community Housing (NVCH) and sponsored by both the City of Napa and the County of Napa, the Home Sharing Program matches those with an available room (providers) with people needing a place to live (seekers). It’s a simple idea but with careful screening of both providers and seekers. The best news is that the service is free to all participants.

“It’s a comprehensive process with a trained housing counselor,” says Marlene Santiago, Vice President of Resident Services for NVCH and the manager of the Match-Up Program. “Non-profits and housing authorities around the nation administer similar home-sharing programs.”

Home-sharing programs have proven to be a more secure and effective way than other traditional roommate services or options. Nationally recognized as an affordable housing opportunity, the program provides individuals, often singles and seniors, with financial relief as well as companionship.

“All applicants are screened through background checks, interviews and an examination of personal references to keep the program as safe as possible,” says Santiago. “The provider and seeker meet before a match is made and agree upon rent payment or perhaps assistance with household tasks such a shopping or light housework.”

A wide variety of individuals participate, from single parents, students, working professionals, people with disabilities, someone at risk of homelessness, seniors citizens or people simply wishing to share their life and home with others. Both seekers and providers benefit from saving on rent and the possibility of companionship to offset isolation or loneliness of living alone.

One of the home providers is Carol. “It’s been great and worked out fine,” says Carol, who heard about the program through a friend. “I like that the renter has been vetted so I don’t have to worry about having someone with a criminal background in my home. I like that, as a provider, that I’m vetted too.”

That’s an aspect that her seeker, Nan, appreciated. “The process was good and I liked that personal questions were asked. I got to meet the providers first and I could choose who’d be the best fit.” Nan didn’t rush, and met several providers before selecting Carol.

“I feel grateful,” she says. “I took the time. It was important to see a couple of places and didn’t take the first one.”

Nan had been away from Napa for 15 years. “The cost of apartments shocked me, but I wanted to live in Napa.”

Home Share rents typically range from approximately $700 to $1000 per month and are set by the provider.

Charles moved back to Napa to help his disabled parents. When his mother passed away, he needed somewhere to live and ended up staying in the homeless shelter. “I was lucky to get a place and have stable housing,” Charles says. “I didn’t mind the length of the process to find a provider. My housing counselor couldn’t have been nicer. I’d like to spread the word that this is a good thing. People need help and shelter.”

Nan agrees. “When I first came here, I couldn’t afford a car and saw the advertising for Home Sharing on the back of a bus.” She’s since gotten work and saved enough to purchase a car. “Paying (lower) rent has really worked out well.”

Does she have advice for other Seekers? “Take the time to meet the Providers. Be clean, take care of your room and be respectful of their property. Talking to each other is important and it’s good to keep the lines of communication open and ongoing.”

For those thinking about becoming potential providers, Carol offers, “I definitely recommend it to others. Although sometimes there’s a misconception that this service is only for seniors. It’s for all ages. A friend of mine rented a room in her home through a list serve. To me, that’s scary. You could be renting to anybody.”

The Home Sharing Match-Up program is available free to people of all ages and backgrounds. It offers additional income for home providers, shares housing expenses (such as mortgage payments), is an alternative to long waiting lists for housing and offers affordable rent for home seekers.

Companionship can be another benefit. Carol explains, “When my grown daughter married and moved out, I found myself in a big house. I like having other energy in it. There’s plenty of room here and it no longer feels lonely.”

Lark Ferrell, Housing Manager for the City of Napa, was instrumental in researching Home Sharing programs. “The Housing Authority is proud to support the Home Sharing Match-Up Program,” says Lark. “Matching homeowners who have extra room in their homes with pre-screened roommates makes so much sense. This program has already made such a difference in so many lives thanks to the caring, thoughtful approach Napa Valley Community Housing takes to help find successful matches. This is a low-cost way to quickly expand rental housing in the community while also offering homeowners a way to help make homeownership more affordable – truly a win/win.”

Not only does Napa Valley Community Housing screen and check references for both parties, their counselors help facilitate the home sharing agreements and are available for follow up questions and concerns.

For additional information, please call to see if Home Sharing is a match for you. Call (707) 253-6157.


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