Did you know Osceola County is one of only two communities in the state of Florida offering a Home Sharing program for community residents?

Our local Home Sharing initiative, managed by the Osceola Council on Aging (OCOA), has been serving the Osceola community for four years. Funded in conjunction with the Osceola County Human Services division, the Home Sharing program is a vital component of our efforts to support the need for additional low-income housing options.

Home Sharing is self explanatory. It is simply co-housing, co-living and/ or renting a room from the owner/occupant of a residence, whether it be a home, condominium, or apartment. The arrangement enables two or more people to share housing for their mutual benefit. A person can offer a private bedroom and shared common area in exchange for rent, for helping around the house or a combination of the two. Every Home Sharing arrangement is unique. Fundamentally, the arrangements are about people helping people.

A few years ago, we approached Osceola County to discuss the lack of affordable housing options in the Osceola community. After in-depth conversations, we agreed to collaborate to create a program to support residents needing less expensive living arrangements. Having placed more than 50 property owners with renters, and with the pandemic finally at bay, the Council is looking forward to linking more property owners with suitable renters.

In theory, the process is simple. For the homeowner who is interested in renting a room, they complete an application. The OCOA inspects the home looking to make sure it is acceptable to rent. The criterion is a healthy, safe, clean, and appropriate environment for a renter. The room rented needs to be an ample-sized private bedroom. A private bathroom is preferred, but not necessarily required.

The homeowner/ occupant is then placed on a waiting list by the Council to become matched with a renter. Homeowners and renters are both required to complete extensive application forms. Questionnaires consist of inquiries related to pets, smoking, housekeeping habits, driving abilities, and so on. Additional questions include financial responsibilities such as rental deposits and costs which often, but not always, include charges for electric, water, and cable.

“It’s a sort of ‘Match.com’ situation to see if roommates, living arrangements, and needs thereof would be met,” said Sandra Alvarez, the Council’s Home Sharing coordinator. Vice versa, a potential renter is required to complete an application for the OCOA to review with the homeowner. All staff is trained to screen applicants which may include a one-on-one process of interviews and reference checks. A $10 application fee for both the occupant and renter is charged for costs relating to background screenings.

Also, it’s important to note that neither the homeowner nor renter need be single. We have examples of married couples participating as homeowners, as well as couples needing space to rent. And we have placed college students in rental agreements as the perfect opportunity to support older individuals in need of assistance.

In summary, the OCOA works as a coordinating liaison interfacing with the homeowner and renter to explore suitable matches; if a match is made, the Council oversees the execution of a rental agreement.

“The Home Sharing program supports OCOA’s mission to support our community’s low-income housing needs since we have a waiting list of individuals looking for Council housing,” said Nancy Vega, St. Cloud Housing director for the OCOA.

As a member of the National Shared Housing Resource Center, a network of independent, non-profit Home Sharing organizations, the goal nationally as it is locally, to foster opportunities to raise awareness of the many benefits of Home Sharing; while increasing health, safety, and socialization, to name a few of the advantages for our seniors. For more information on the Home Sharing program, contact Sandra Alvarez at 407-891-1467.

To see more guest columns by Wendy, go to https://osceolagenerations.org/councils-corner/

Published Wednesday, March 16, 2022