Today we want to clear up any confusion about what homesharing really means because, as we’ve pointed out in previous blogs, homesharing often means different things to different people. We’ll start by clarifying that homesharing, for example, is not cohousing.

Cohousing is when a group of people get together to develop their own neighbourhood – which may be all contained in an apartment building or separate homes or townhouses with a shared common house.  Whether it forms part of the apartment building or is a totally separate building, the common house may contain a commercial-type kitchen, a large room for frequent shared meals, a library, mail room, possibly space for childcare, or offices – whatever that particular cohousing group wishes to include – to facilitate community interactions.  In most cases parking is kept to the periphery of the community, which also encourages people engaging with each other. It’s been said that a “traffic jam” in cohousing is stopping five times to chat with a neighbour on your way to your car!

Cohousing communities are generally ruled by consensus, which means every resident gets a say in decision making – everyone is on the board of directors! And everyone shares in the responsibility of maintaining the community, whether by contributing their time and effort or by agreeing to hire outside professionals to do the work.  This is communal living, but not shared housing or homesharing.

Co-ownership is another term that’s appearing in the media more and more frequently as house prices soar out of reach for many millennials.  At the other end of the spectrum, many seniors are looking at co-ownership as a way to remain out of the institutionalized elder-care system.  Co-ownership may or may not be homesharing.  If the shared house being purchased contains separate living units as, say, a duplex or small apartment building, it may be co-owned, but is not a shared home.  If the co-owners intend to live as a family of friends and share the kitchen, they are homesharing. Some homes fall somewhere in between, where residents may have a small “kitchenette” in their private space, but still share a full kitchen with their co-owners.

For that matter, we know of several entrepreneurial folks who are developing houses with four to six small units, each with their own kitchenettes, but with one full kitchen and common living spaces.  Their plan is to rent out the individual units – or possibly sell shares in the building in some sort of condominium model.  So the home will be shared, either by tenants or by co-owners.  Whew!

The jury is still out as to what individual municipalities will allow and whether the Province of Ontario will step in to regulate how this can be done.  Golden Girls Canada participated in a round table discussion at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing recently to talk about all the different models of co-ownership and homesharing / housesharing that are arising.  They hope to develop a set of guidelines to help the public – and public bodies – find the way forward.

At Golden Girls Canada / Golden Homesharing Connections our focus is on the simplest form of homesharing:  One person owns the home and invites another person or two to live in it with them.  Terms are agreed upon up front and agreements are signed (or should be!) before anyone ever moves in.  No special approvals or zoning requirements are needed.

There are five million spare bedrooms in Ontario alone.  Many of these are in homes owned by empty-nesters who are starting to feel that the house is more than they can manage on their own, but who can’t find anywhere else they’d like to live – especially if they wish to remain in their own community. Sharing their home with other like-minded individuals can be a great way to bring in some extra income, as well as help around the house, and enjoy some companionship to boot!

This simple way of sharing your home also benefits the larger community by helping to reduce the huge demand for new “affordable” housing.  You don’t need to pile a bunch of strangers into your home, just find a few people you can enjoy living with – they are out there!

In short, whether you call it homesharing or housesharing isn’t too big a deal. What matters more is that you agree on the terms of the living arrangements up front and what your options are if the relationship doesn’t work out. Having a strong homesharing agreement in place is critical.  If you’d like to know more about home/housesharing, contact me anytime. I’m Dorothy Mazeau, (SRES) an Accredited Senior Real Estate Specialist and owner of Golden Girls Canada ,operated by Golden Homesharing Connections.

Want to know more?
Tune in to the Zoomer Radio 740AM show “From a Woman’s Perspective” the first Saturday each month and listen to Dorothy dish on housing options!
Invite Dorothy to speak at your next service club, church or social group meeting. Her presentation *An Introduction to Golden Girls Living * offers plenty of food for thought!