As we come to the end of ‘Lodgers for Codgers’, the Channel 4 documentary based loosely on the Homeshare model of intergenerational shared living, we are reflecting on some of the key issues and how Homeshare can be the answer in the real world beyond the TV experiment.
Whether you’re in your 20s or 80s, everyone needs a place to call home. Now more than ever home is a sanctuary, a place to be safe and ride out the storm, or virus!
Home means different things to different people but the basic need for a safe and affordable roof over your head is universal. When home isn’t right, others parts of life start to unravel, whether it’s mental health, employment or relationships. Being secure and happy at home is the lynchpin for your general well-being.
The young people in the series were all facing real issues with housing. Some were still living at home, unable to get that taste of freedom and independence like Liam, Jake and Sophie. Or they were facing homelessness like Ciaro, had never experienced what a safe and secure home was like Marvell and Chè, or looking at alternatives such as living in a van like Lucy, to afford the cities they wanted to live in. Social media, lifestyle publications and shops sell the dream of your perfect home and the private rented sector knows this. The cost of having that all-important place to call home is rising.
It’s disproportionate in places that are considered ‘more desirable’ because they have access to shops, public transport and lifestyle choices. If you work in a shop in Chelsea, earning minimum living wage (around £10 an hour) you would probably have to live with your parents (if they have space and are willing), or have a single room in another part of London or beyond with no communal living space and a hefty commute and travel expenses to boot. Even then more than an average amount of your earnings would go to pay for that space.
Imagine you could drastically reduce your rent for say a year or two. What would that free up in terms of cash to save? What weight would it lift off your shoulders from the hefty rent cheque each month? Live in the place you want to live and save money for your first home, the holiday of a lifetime or simply a safety net. Homeshare isn’t the answer for everyone and isn’t always a long term option, as circumstances change and people move on. The motivation has to be driven by more than saving money; you need to really want to contribute and share your time and home life with someone else. In Homeshare people are matched as housemates based on mutual outlooks on life, interests and hobbies. You are a lifeline for each other. It’s more than a room to rent; it’s a friendship and genuine desire to help each other.
We know that 3.8 million pensioners live alone in the UK and are reluctant to sell up and downsize. These are their homes and their plan is to stay in them as long as possible. Many of them bought their home in the 70s and 80s when house prices were affordable and have been able to upgrade and make money from their asset. Another strong theme that came out of the show was a desire to help out the younger generation, use their assets to provide safe and affordable places to live whilst also gaining companionship and someone to bring conversation, laughter and fresh perspectives into their lives.
There are around 500 people Homesharing across the UK and the it is still relatively new and innovative in the UK. Many Homeshare organisations are start-ups and making matches can be hard due to lack of suitable and available participants. But if only 1% of those older people living alone considered Homeshare, we could create a vibrant and thriving alterative to what currently is on offer and is failing so many.
When you describe the Homeshare model to people, they always say it’s win win! It’s asset-based community development, it’s prevention, it’s a no brainer.