Vashon is in the midst of a housing crisis — and it is no secret that the island is greatly lacking in middle and low-income housing.
Home prices on Vashon have gone up over 18% since 2020, with rental inventory and new building opportunities even more scarce. Our family members, teachers, nurses, and baristas struggle to find suitable homes. This is having a negative impact on the community, and the availability of essential services.
Vashon HouseHold (VHH), a nonprofit organization that has been serving the island since 1990, seeks to alleviate these pressures by providing access to quality affordable housing for low-income and moderate-income islanders in order to preserve and foster the economic and cultural diversity needed for a thriving community.
One of the greatest things about Vashon is how the community comes together to help each other in times of need. VHH was born out of that sense of community and those values.
Until recently, VHH’s efforts primarily focused on acquiring or building new rental and ownership properties with funding from county, state, and federal agencies. But as VHH board member Gedney Barclay puts it, “The pace of inflation – namely steep increases in the cost of living and of housing – far outpaces any affordable housing developer’s ability to acquire and/or build new properties.”
Enter the Home Share Program.
Launched in the fall of 2022, VHH’s Home Share Program takes home providers with extra space and matches them with home seekers, who have some stable income and/or support or services they can offer.
Today, Vashon has many individuals and couples living in homes with underused space, and many vacation properties that sit vacant for the majority of the year. The Home Share Program taps into this immense housing asset as housing production lags on the island and elsewhere in the country.
“While VHH believes in pursuing acquisition and building projects for the long-term affordability of the island, we’re very excited about Home Share because we can help address housing needs today,” Barclay added. “People can move in within a matter of days or months rather than years. This is going to be a very crucial bridge for our community between where we are today and where we need to be, without leaving anyone behind.”
Matching the right home providers with the right home seekers is no small task.
To ensure matches that are stable and long-lived, Home Share undertakes an extensive matching process to assist in renting out spaces through screening and interviewing parties, providing support and clarity in agreements, and offering assistance should there be disagreements — even providing mediation if the need arises. Home Share is here to help set up situations that benefit everyone.
“It’s a wonderful way of connecting people with housing, plus a warm and friendly environment,” said program participant Meagan, adding “[They] did a great job facilitating.”
Another benefit to Home Share is that because it is a non-traditional housing program, there are no income requirements or stipulations to participate in the process. Instead, it prioritizes choice and agency from the participants: terms are set and agreed upon by the home provider and the renter (home seeker), not VHH and the Home Share Program.
Many participants ask for work trade as part of the agreement to get their needs met and reduce rental fees, benefiting both parties. This could include domestic help, yard work, or any other reasonable and clearly agreed-upon tasks. Home Share staff takes extra care in setting up clear agreements to facilitate an effective and happy partnership between the home provider and the home seeker.
We have all heard the horrors of having a terrible tenant. But having the right tenant can be a blessing. Vashon can be a very isolating place to live, especially in recent times.
Home Share can be a way to offer companionship and get some needs met around the home, as well as financial support. The program’s thorough screening process matches people’s needs to create the best possible scenarios for cohabitation.
Are you or someone you know living on a property with extra living space? Do you need companionship or help around your home, or could use some modest additional income to supplement your housing costs?
Would you like some extra money to cover your housing costs? Do you want support in finding a person that meets your needs.? VHH and the Home Share program can help. And we need your help.
“This program’s success is reliant on the community’s willingness and ability to share space in their homes,” said Jason Johnson, executive director of Vashon HouseHold. “Home Share is an actionable way to support housing affordability on the island and deepen this community’s connections to one another.”
VHH’s Home Share Program is funded by contributions from Puget Sound Energy, the Beardsley Family Foundation, and private donations. More information can be found at VashonHousehold.org/homeshare or by contacting Osha Christianson at (206) 463-6454 or Osha@VashonHousehold.org.
Osha Christianson is the program coordinator of Vashon HouseHold’s Home Share program.