Housing fact sheets Job opportunities Home Service area Program overview Advocacy Fair housing Mission and History Events Interfaith in the news Homesharing Action opportunities Members Newsletter How to support us Contact us Links

Broadcast on WLS radio, Nov. 2, 2002

Room For A Deal

By Reporter Rob Johnson

Home sharing is already working in the suburbs.

Virginia, a retiree, and Jay, a businessman who's on the road a lot, share a condo in Mount Prospect. Suzan, an unemployed computer specialist, and Joyce, a single office worker, live together in Des Plaines. They're among the 2 percent of people across the country who home share. Many people-- particularly those 70 and older-- do it for the companionship and security it offers. Most others do it to ease a tough financial situation.

"I was worried. I had a certain amount of money put away so that I could live in the house for six months before I would have to sell it, if I didn't get a job and this is kind of keeping the wolf from the door a little bit longer," said Suzan S.

"If I didn't do this, or at least give it a try, I would either be in a shelter, living in my car or be considered a homeless person," said Joyce W. Eight out of ten people over 55 own their own homes and want to stay in them as long as possible. But increasing costs for maintenance, utilities and taxes force many seniors to move. Home sharing helped Kathryn to stay in her Evanston apartment until there was room for her in a senior housing complex.

"My kids would have taken me in, but it was simpler to stay in my apartment. I said if I could get someone to share the rent with me I could stay until I qualified," said Kathryn H.

Home seekers may be college students; transferees looking for temporary quarters; single parents saving to buy their own homes; or middle-aged workers building up retirement funds. They know it's difficult to find affordable housing in the Chicago area, where the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is nearly $800.

"We do all the leg work, so they don't have to spend hours looking and interviewing potential housing situations," said Jacqueline Grossmann, Interfaith Housing Center of the North Suburbs in Winnetka.

Agencies also conduct extensive background checks and spend hours talking to clients to find compatible pairs.

"People have been taking in strangers for many years... but we act as a gate keeper, a safeguard," said Jacqueline Grossmann.

"If I put an ad in the paper, I might be getting the local ax murderer and not know it. This way, they checked me out and they checked her out and we both can be comfortable about it," said Suzan.

"It can be a great deal, as long as the person you're about to live with is vetted by someone you trust," said Kathryn H.

Some roommates sign agreements that spell out policies on smoking, pets, and visitors. Others simply establish ground rules.

"If you're going to do this you have to know that there's another person involved and you have to think ahead of time about what things might bother you," said Suzann.

"Everything must be discussed first. You don't wait until you get into a relationship and then start to give some rules. It doesn't work too well," said Virginia.

Monthly rents range from $100 to 500. Sometimes homeowners will discount the rent in exchange for cooking, light housekeeping or running errands. The rent usually covers a bedroom; a bathroom, sometimes a private bath; use of the laundry and kitchen… but not food… and all utilities except the telephone.

"She made it known from day one, her house is my house and I can utilize every part of it and that was really nice to hear. This house feels like home," said Joyce.

The Interfaith Housing Center of the North Suburbs In Winnetka, The Center Of Concern in Park Ridge, and the DuPage County Department of Human Services are among the 20 suburban agencies that offer home sharing. Each arranges about one home sharing match a week.

Counselors say the homeowners' biggest fear is that scam artists will victimize them. But someone intent on ripping off a host probably would not agree to undergo the required screenings.

Chicago's Department on Aging hopes to have its home sharing program up and running in January.


Where to find out about Home Sharing programs in Illinois

  • http://www.nationalsharedhousing.org/states/illinois.html

In Cook County:

  • Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs
    620 Lincoln Avenue
    Winnetka, Il 60093
    847. 501-5760
  • Center of Concern
    1580 N. Northwest Highway
    Park Ridge, IL 60068-1462
    847. 823-0453
    E-Mail concern@mcleodusa.net
  • Resource Center for the Elderly
    1801 West Central Road
    Arlington Heights, IL 60005

DuPage County

  • Du Page County Division of Human Services
    For more information contact the Division of Human Services at 630-682-7000 or 1-800-942-9412 or email housing@dupageco.org.

Kane, Kendall and McHenry counties:

  • www.seniorservicesassoc.org


  • National Shared Housing Resource Center
    5342 Tilly Mill Road
    Dunwoody, GA 30338
  • U.S. Administration on Aging
  • Housing Research Foundation
  • AARP offering a brochure: A Consumers Guide to Home Sharing
    Write to: AARP Fulfillment
    Box EE01539
    601 E Street NW
    Washington, DC 20049


web site developed by Chris Coglianeseweb site developed by Chris Coglianese

Home Service area Program overview Advocacy Fair housing Mission and History Events Interfaith in the news Homesharing Action opportunities Members Newsletter How to support us Contact us Links