Advice Corner: OCOA Hosts Home Sharing Program

Did you know that Osceola County is one of only two communities in the state of Florida that offers a home-sharing program for community residents?

Our local home-sharing initiative, run by the Osceola Council on Aging (OCOA), has served the Osceola community for four years. Funded in conjunction with the Osceola County Division of Social Services, the Home Sharing program is a vital part of our efforts to address the need for additional housing options for low-income people.

Home Sharing is self-explanatory. It is simply co-housing, co-living and/or renting a room to the owner/occupant of a residence, whether it is a house, condominium or apartment . The arrangement allows two or more people to share accommodation for their mutual benefit. A person can offer a private bedroom and a shared common space in exchange for rent, housekeeping, or a combination of the two. Each home sharing arrangement is unique. Basically, arrangements are about people helping others.

A few years ago, we approached Osceola County to discuss the lack of affordable housing options in the community of Osceola. After extensive conversations, we agreed to collaborate to create a program to support residents in need of a less expensive lifestyle. Having placed over 50 landlords with tenants, and with the pandemic finally at bay, the Council looks forward to connecting more landlords with suitable tenants.

In theory, the process is simple. For the owner who wishes to rent a room, he fills out an application. The OCOA inspects the home to make sure it is acceptable for rent. The criterion is a healthy, safe, clean and suitable environment for a tenant. The room rented must be a large private room. A private bathroom is preferred, but not necessarily required.

The landlord/occupant is then placed on a waiting list by the Council to be matched with a tenant. Both landlords and tenants are required to complete detailed application forms. The questionnaires consist of questions related to pets, smoking, housekeeping habits, driving abilities, and more. Additional issues include financial responsibilities such as rental deposits and costs which often, but not always, include electricity, water and cable charges.

“It’s kind of a ‘’ situation to see if roommates, living arrangements and needs would be met,” said Sandra Alvarez, the council’s home-sharing coordinator. Vice versa, a prospective tenant is required to complete an OCOA application to review with the landlord. All staff are trained to screen candidates, which may include a one-on-one interview and reference checking process. A $10 occupier and tenant application fee is charged for costs related to background checks.

In addition, it is important to note that neither the landlord nor the tenant must be single. We have examples of married couples participating as landlords, as well as couples needing space to rent. And we’ve placed university students on tenancy agreements as the perfect opportunity to support seniors in need of assistance.

In summary, the OCOA functions as a coordinating liaison between landlord and tenant to explore appropriate matches; if a match is made, the Council oversees the execution of a rental agreement.

“The Home Sharing program supports OCOA’s mission to meet the housing needs of low-income people in our community, as we have a waiting list of people looking for council housing,” said Nancy Vega, director of St. Cloud Housing for the OCOA.

As a member of the National Shared Housing Resource Center, a network of independent, not-for-profit home-sharing organizations, the national and local goal is to foster opportunities for awareness of the many benefits of home sharing; while increasing health, safety and socialization, to name just a few of the benefits for our seniors. For more information about the Home Sharing program, contact Sandra Alvarez at 407-891-1467.

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