Looking from a scenic mossy arbutus grover across the waters to a neighbouring tree covered shore

Cortes Island’s Virtual Homeshare Forum

The Cortes Housing Society’s Virtual Forum kicks off this Saturday with a program on home sharing. This is a monthly event, co-sponsored by Folk-U. At 10 AM this Saturday host Sadhu Johnston will be joined by Noelle Marcus, from the US homeshare program Nesterly, and Janey Rowland, from the SGI (Southern Gulf Island) Housing Now Project.

“We all  know that there are a lot of homes that are underutilized or empty, and there are also a lot of homes that are just under-occupied. Maybe the kids have moved away, or for whatever reason there is an extra bedroom.  We know there are a good number of people on Cortes who are single and would be happy with a bedroom in a house,” explained Sadhu Johnston, executive director of the Cortes Housing Society. 

“The idea of home sharing really came out pretty vividly for me during the housing forum last December. When we were having conversations in the breakout sessions,  I just heard a number of times that people have space in their house but would need some support to rent out a room.  That’s where the home sharing idea really came up as a possible solution. Home sharing providers really help to vet potential tenants, take a look at the house, make sure it’s good and help to make those connections work.”

“I think home sharing is a really interesting opportunity for Cortes and particularly people with an extra bedroom, or a suite, to get the support needed to get it rented.  Particularly seniors who might be living alone, and may like to have a younger person living with them and the camaraderie that you get sharing some meals or just seeing them around the house.” 

“Home sharing could be a good part of a solution to addressing some of the housing challenges on the island.” 

Cortes Currents: Did you hear from any people who want to rent a room?  

Sadhu Johnston: “I haven’t heard  from people that want to rent a room yet.  I’m interested to hear whether folks  express interest after learning more about home sharing.” 

“As a housing society we don’t really want to launch a service on the island if there’s not an interest.  This is a chance to get a sense of whether this is the kind of solution that people would be interested in. So at the housing forum this weekend, we’re going to be  interviewing some people and learning from their examples, both in the U. S. and the Southern Gulf Islands.  We’ll have a chance to learn about some examples, and then we’ll have a chance to just hear any questions Cortes folks have and any ideas, or thoughts, they might have about whether this is the kind of thing that we should be doing here on Cortes.”

“Janey will be talking about an example in the Southern Gulf Islands that they’ve been leading. Janey’s established this as a leading example for smaller communities like ours.”

“What they’re doing is  playing matchmaker. They created a housing registry for folks who might have space in their home that they would be interested in renting out. They really talk to those people and see what their interests are, what kind of people they’d be interested in having us as roommates or tenants.  When people looking for housing approach them,  they see if there’s a match. What’s neat is that both parties can be anonymous. It’s a small community, you might not be interested  in living with  a particular person. So a third party service gets to see if there’s a match and then both parties can  think about it before they sit down together. In that way, the matchmaking service is really supportive of both parties.”

“They have been doing that since 2023. So it’s just about a year and they’ve found housing for over 7 people.  If you think about a small community like ours, finding housing for 7 people without having to build any housing – it’s really quite an affordable solution.” 

“We’re going to be learning how it works.” 

“Then Noelle leads a house sharing online tool called Nesterly. It’s been really popular in cities across the US, but not in Canada yet. I’m trying to convince her that maybe Cortes could be a pilot program for them. We’ll see what she has to say this weekend.” 

“I believe they focus on seniors who could use extra support around the house and a young person living with them.” 

Cortes Currents: The immediate thing I think about is what about conflicts between the tenants and host? How often is it a problem? Do they ever have to step in to resolve things? 

Sadhu Johnston: “That’s a great question that  I’ll be asking them as well. I think one of the benefits of a service like this is that there is support for you, both as a tenant and as the person renting the room out. How they  deal with it is something  I’m not familiar with yet.”

Cortes Currents: I’d also be interested to know if they ever rent out to couples. I guess you couldn’t have families.  

Sadhu Johnston: “I think you could have a family if the person with the room, or with the house, had a couple of bedrooms – and especially if they wanted to have a family around.  I think people living in isolation and loneliness is considered an epidemic in our culture. This is a really great way to have more community in your daily life.  So, in addition to providing much needed housing, this could be a way to build community for people.  I think that’s a really unique part of this type of solution.” 

Cortes Currents: Is there anything you would like to add?  

Sadhu Johnston: “I just really encourage people to join us on Saturday. It’s a zoom session and it’s at 10 AM.  If they can’t join in, just send me an email with any thoughts that they might have about whether they think this is the kind of solution that we should be pursuing here on Cortes.” 

Click here to access the housing forum at 10 AM Saturday  Johnston. who will be hosting a virtual ZOOM forum at 10 AM on Saturday March 16, 2024 

Top image credit: The the SGI (Southern Gulf Island) Housing Now Project operates on islands like Pender, where you get views like this. – Photo by Matthew Oliphant via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0 DEED)

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