It's a sad truth that many residents who've spent years, even decades, living on the Central Coast can now barely afford to stay here.
Rising housing costs and rents are threatening to drive out thousands of locals, especially seniors on fixed incomes. But a local non-profit is connecting folks on opposite sides of the equation and has come up with a formula that may be one of the keys to solving the affordable housing shortage.
Betty Norgord was in a bit of a pickle. She needed housing. But on her budget, about $700 a month plus utilities, she couldn't afford her own place.
Equally stuck was Diann Adams. She'd been in her home in Morro Bay for 10 years but was losing ground to the rent.
"I paid it alone for two years," says Adams. "When your savings account gets depleted because you're paying the full amount of rent, it was too much."
She thought about a roommate.
"I tried Craigslist and had some real bad experiences," she says.
Enter the folks at HomeShareSLO, a non-profit that specializes in matching people struggling to find affordable housing with those who have a spare room they'd like to rent.
Anne Wyatt, HomeShareSLO's coordinator explains, "H.U.D. estimates that approximately 20 percent of seniors are over-housed, which means they have an extra bedroom. With more than 11,000 single seniors in San Luis Obispo County, that's a lot of housing sitting empty, so if we just took 20 percent of the single seniors here in SLO County, that would open up more than 2,000 bedrooms," she says.
HomeShareSLO performs background checks and considers a whole series of personality traits and hobbies, even things like whether candidates are night owls or early birds, to find the right match.
So when Betty contacted them to find a room, they reached out to Diann, who just happened to have one.
"And I said, 'boy that would be great,' you know? Because I'm really having trouble finding somebody that I can really trust," Diann says.
To start, HomeShareSLO suggested an informal meeting.
"It's like a date.. have coffee or whatever and sit and talk to see if you're compatible."
"We have had a 100 percent success rate for our matches and, indeed, our introductions have had a very high success rate, too," says Celeste Goyer, the organization's operations director.
"Is it too soon to say whether it's been a success or not?" we asked.
Diann started to respond, then looked to Betty. "Well.... what do you think?"
Betty gave her a long look. "I don't think so."
"You don't think it's too soon, or you don't think it's a success?" we asked.
"I don't think it's too soon," Betty said. Both laughed.
"I would recommend the program to anybody,..." Betty said.
Diann finished the thought. "Yeah, who's looking to find a place to live who might not be able to afford to do it all on their own."
"Definitely," Dianne nodded. "It's the way to go to get the roommate you really want."
HomeShareSLO charges home seekers $100 toward the screening costs. Home providers pay no fees up front but pay the first month's rent to the program when there's a match made to cover administrative costs.
Click here to learn more about getting involved.