Content provided by Odd Couples Housing
The idea of homesharing has been around for years. Around the country, various formal and informal networks for finding tenants, short-term borders, or roommates have surfaced. Instead of finding roommates through word-of-mouth or college campus flyers, now there are structured options to support homesharing, including a few options in Missouri. One example is Odd Couples Housing, a St. Louis-based start-up that focuses on connecting people of different generations for shared living.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, many lives have changed considerably. Older adults have curtailed work and volunteer activities, college and graduate students have adapted to virtual learning, and people of all ages have faced career insecurity, loss, and isolation. In a time of so much uncertainty—and concern about COVID-19 exposure—it’s easy to wonder if homesharing has a place.
However, on closer inspection, circumstances amplified by the pandemic actually produce an environment in which homesharing is a good fit for many people. The benefits of the arrangement directly address some of the fundamental issues many people are struggling with because of the pandemic. For one, homesharing is financially advantageous for both parties. The economic impact of COVID-19 has affected millions of people in the U.S. According to the Pew Research Center, since the start of the pandemic, nearly one in four adults have had trouble paying their bills and a third have used retirement funds to make ends meet. By homesharing, younger people (who were more likely to have experienced coronavirus-related layoffs) can enjoy a more affordable living option as they get back on their feet. For older adults, the unused space in their home can easily provide extra money to pay bills, a mortgage or home equity loan, or enjoy a fun splurge.
The Odd Couples Housing model also emphasizes the idea of giving back and mutuality. Often, roommates agree to do certain household chores to support the homeowner, often for lower homesharing expenses. Homeowners who no longer have to pay for a lawn mowing service, dog walker, or ride-share driver may find they have additional cash on hand.
Social isolation is another issue that the pandemic has highlighted. While concern about loneliness and isolation has often targeted older populations, quarantines and stay-at-home orders have shown us that we are all affected. There is a large body of research documenting the negative health effects of loneliness and isolation, and the importance of meaningful social connection. Having another person to talk to, or share a meal with can have a huge impact on our sense of connectedness. Among Odd Couples Housing’s roommate matches, the company and friendly face to come home to (or stay home with!) has been a highlight for many who would otherwise be alone. We’ve heard from numerous roommate pairs that they are grateful to have a roommate right now.
The pandemic has encouraged many of us to slow down, re-evaluate our priorities, and consider the world we want to live in post-pandemic. Amidst the pain and loss, there has been a renewed sense of benevolence and compassion in many spheres of society. People are investing in their communities—volunteering their time, donating money, checking in on friends or relatives, and practicing kindness on a regular basis. There has never been a better time to get to know your neighbor and build meaningful community connections. Homesharing is a way to live out some of these ideals—community, respect, generosity—all while building a relationship with someone new.
A final factor that supports the potential growth of homesharing in a post-pandemic world is the fact that many homesharing connections occur online. Whether it’s through a casual Facebook conversation or a formal platform like Odd Couples Housing, many connections are happening virtually. Since the start of the pandemic more people across the life span have been regularly engaging with technology. Many older adults have embraced Zoom and other platforms that facilitate communication, and many younger adults continue to turn to social media for online connection. This increased comfort with technology lays a strong groundwork for even more people to learn about homesharing and meet potential roommates online.
We don’t know what lies ahead, but as we begin to look ahead to a world beyond COVID-19, there are many indicators that it is one that would embrace intergenerational homesharing.