Affordable Living for the Aging (ALA) is expanding its innovative Home Share Program that matches Angelenos as roommates to provide seniors with affordable housing and supportive services. Miriam Hall and Cynthia Kennedy, ALA Home Share Program Managers, spoke about ALA and shared information about the program.
“One-third of Los Angeles’ 1.2 million older adults are facing housing instability today and that number is expected to double in ten years,” said ALA Chief Executive Officer Antonio Manning. “The Home Share program is an important economic and social service that can begin to solve this issue by helping seniors find a roommate for companionship and economic support.
Founded by Janet L. Witkin in 1978, who was witnessing the challenges seniors faced caring for her grandfather, ALA has been making sure senior citizens are not forgotten. Between the early 80s and 90s, ALA create five shared living residences for low-income seniors. Today, they are still placing seniors in better living conditions that allow for independence and security with reasonable rent.
The Home Share program matches seniors who have extra space in their homes (home providers) to individuals seeking affordable housing. ALA works with seniors to determine the amount of rent they can afford, and refers them to rooms within their budget. With the average one-bedroom apartment in LA renting at $1,800 a month, Home Share participants find an economical alternative in ALA’s program, which offers home seekers an average rent of $600 per month.
“The home providers, they earn extra income,” said Hall. “As we age, our income tends to remain flat, after we retire, we don’t earn extra income so it sets the home provider with earning a little bit of extra cash.”
Financially motivated home providers receive a steady stream of income while also splitting utilities and other related costs with their roommate, giving them with a financial boost of at least $6,000/year. Home providers who need assistance with household chores and companionship are matched with willing roommates who pay a reduced rent in exchange for their assistance.
Roommates are often widowed, divorced or never married and each match gives seniors a chance to maintain their independence through interdependence. ALA staff screens every applicant and participants rely on the organization to introduce them to appropriate roommate candidates. From there, clients decide with whom they want to live. ALA is involved for the lifetime of the housing match to assist the pair and to help resolve any issues that may arise.
As rising rents and a lack of affordable units contribute to the worsening housing crisis across Los Angeles Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and ALA are partnering to expand the Home Share program. He looks to expand the home share program into the South Los Angeles area. Kendell shared that the program has supporters in South Los Angeles and is very much needed.
“Ninety-five percent of people that stopped by my table were African American,” said Kennedy. “I actually got more potential housing providers … than I’ve ever gotten at one time.”
Kendell continued, “People are very much aware of the housing crisis, many of the people I spoke to are currently in the process of being displaced… with the gentrification that’s going on throughout the city of Los Angeles, that combined with landlords that are basically just going up on their rents because they want what the market can bare.
“If tenants are in an area where there is no rent control, areas such as Inglewood, Hawthorne, even Culver City, they have no recourse.
“Especially for the seniors that I’ve talked to that have been living in the same apartment for maybe 15 years—all of the sudden, their being displaced and they find out that rent is over $1,800 a month.”
There are 125,000 low-income seniors in the city of L.A. and approximately 7,800 affordable senior units; this means that 16 seniors compete for everyone apartment. The Home Share program helps bridge this gap and address the housing crisis by connecting seniors with affordable housing in open rooms that already exist. Expanding the program in Supervisorial District 2 will allow ALA to facilitate more matches and greater home security and companionship for seniors in the community.
“We’re thankful to Supervisor Ridley-Thomas for his support, and we are excited to continue expanding our Home Share program in Supervisorial District 2 and across Los Angeles,” said Manning.
“The challenge of the program is that we need more home providers, who have the space, who want to take in a roommate so that we can place all the housing seekers that we have on our list,” said Hall.
ALA is a non-profit dedicated to enriching Los Angeles communities by providing services and programs that are relevant and responsive to seniors’ evolving needs.
For more information on Affordable Living for the Aging, please visit http://alaseniorliving.org/. You can also call, (323) 650-7988 or send inquiries to [email protected]
Brian W. Carter contributed to this article.