With only 60 active Home Sharing programs across the United States, the Osceola Council on Aging is fortunate to host this housing initiative for residents of the Osceola community.

The national program has been available to community members for more than six years. Funded in part by the Osceola County Human Services division, the countywide project called ‘Hearts and Home Sharing,’ has become a vital component in the OCOA’s efforts to support additional options for low-income residential housing opportunities.

The program is simply the act of co-housing, co-living or renting a bedroom, or portion of a home from an owner or occupant of a residence; with rental options in homes, condominiums, and apartment residences.

“As most Central Florida residents are experiencing both rental and cost of living increases, this has prompted a demand for innovative housing solutions for lower income individuals,” OCOA Vice-President of Housing Angelica Rodriguez said, “Luckily, Home Sharing has emerged as a crucial resource for residents, not just in the state of Florida, but across our country. This option is empowering seniors, individuals with disabilities, working professionals, and those who simply cannot find affordable housing to maintain independence by sharing costs.”

The arrangement enables two or more individuals to share housing for mutual benefit, whether it be financial, social, or simply to support safety and security needs.

For homeowners, requirements include completing a Home Sharing application through the OCOA; submitting a copy of their driver’s license, social security card, proof of current income, proof of home ownership, or, if they do not own, a letter from the landlord stating a sublet is allowed.

Once the homeowner’s application is completed, the Council will inspect the residence to make sure it is in acceptable condition. The criteria include a healthy, safe, clean, and friendly environment. Minimally, the bedroom for rent needs to be of ample size and private. A private bathroom is preferred, but not required.

If approved by the Council, the homeowner/occupant of the residence is then placed on a waiting list to become matched with a renter. Additional application forms (for both parties) include inquiries related to pets, cooking, smoking, housekeeping habits, yardwork, and even driving abilities. Other information needed includes a financial overview of rental deposits and costs which often, but not always, include electric, water, and cable charges. A national criminal and sex offender background screening will also be performed on both parties.

“Basically, the process is a ‘Match.com’ scenario to find out if roommates, living arrangements, and needs of both parties can be met,” added Rodriguez.

OCOA staff screen both parties, which may include a one-on-one process of interviews and multiple reference checks. A $10 application fee for both the occupant and renter are charged for background screening costs.

Also, it is important to note neither the homeowner nor renter need be single. The Council has matched married couples participating as homeowners, as well as couples needing space to rent. We have also placed college students in residences as an opportunity to support individuals in need of assistance. If a match is made, the Council oversees the execution of the rental agreement.

As a member of the National Shared Housing Resource Center, a network of independent, non-profit, Home Sharing organizations, the goal is to foster opportunities to raise awareness of the benefits of Home Sharing, while increasing health, safety, and socialization. Further, we are thrilled to have ‘matched’ more than one hundred individuals and couples in the Osceola community, with roommates, over the last few years.

For more information on this program, contact Sandra Alvarez at 407-891-1467.