Foreclosures Revive Home-sharing

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With the rise in foreclosures, many people are going back to an old-fashioned way to save on housing: sharing. One newly married couple decided to try the measure after one spouse was laid off. Vermont Public Radio's Nina Keck reports.


Back now, with Day to Day. The price of food is going up. Utilities aren't cheap either. Little surprise then that a growing number of Americans are trying an old fashioned way to save on housing cost, sharing. As Vermont Public Radio's Nina Keck reports, many homeowners are deciding that giving up a little privacy is better than losing their house.

Ms. NINA KECK (Reporter, Vermont Public Radio): Heather Moss(ph) enjoys a cup of tea in her sunny kitchen. Like many Vermonters, she says rising heating fuel costs have hit hard.

Ms. HEATHER MOSS: When prices just skyrocketed this summer I thought to myself, this is getting really way out of hand. I'm in this big old house. I'm by myself. I have a plenty of room, it seemed to only make sense to include someone else in this picture.

Ms. KECK: Moss is a professional who works at home. She considered renting out her spare bedroom last year, but she felt uncomfortable.

Ms. MOSS: Primarily because I had concerns about taking someone in that I knew nothing about.

Ms. KECK: But when she saw her retirement savings plummet and her annual fuel bill top $6,000, Moss called her local home share program. She could have just placed an ad in the local paper, but she liked that home share programs do thorough background and security checks and mediate any disputes. Typically, home-share programs are non-profits. Many were created to help the elderly. But that's changing. Kirby Dunn is executive director of HomeShare Vermont, the state's oldest home share organization.

Ms. KIRBY DUNN (Executive Director, home share Vermont): In the past, people have been coming to us more who needed some help around the house. You know, I don't drive anymore so I need somebody to help me, you know, get the groceries and take me to my appointments. But now the calls we're tending to get this year, tending to be from people who were just really needing some financial assistance. Annette Leahy Brennan of the St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center in Baltimore says she's seeing a similar shift. She tells the story of a newly married couple in their 20s who had just bought their first home.

Mr. ANNETTE LEAHY BRENNAN (Director, St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center): They never expected that they would be interested in home sharing at this time in their life. But her husband was laid off. She is worried about what will happen as they try to hold on to the house and pay the mortgage and the bills. So she has decided to open her home to a possible home sharer.

Ms. KECK: At the Interfaith Housing Center outside Chicago, the number of homeowners with spare rooms for rent has tripled in the last two months. And organizers say they are getting calls from affluent suburbs they've never heard from before. An even larger number of people are setting up home share arrangements on their own. Craigslist, a popular online classified service, has seen home share postings jump 60 percent to over 360,000 last month. With the economic downturn expected to continue, proponents believe many more people could benefit, but they say privacy and pride issues remain major obstacles.

Unidentified Woman: There's the issue of, well how will I be perceived by my community if I do this sort of thing?

Ms. KECK: Back in Vermont, Heather Moss says most of her friends applaud her decision to home share, but she still worries about appearances.

Ms. MOSS: Will my clients find out I'm doing this. What will they think of me? Pride is definitely a factor.

Ms. KECK: She smiles and admits she is much happier having a housemate. He's great at fixing things, and they respect each other's privacy. And she says that extra $400 a month makes all the difference. For NPR News, I'm Nina Keck.

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