Interview by Earll Murman
Home sharing has been a way of life since the late 1980s for a single senior homeowner in the uptown district of Port Townsend. It all started when she offered a free bedroom to a young person working at a local non-profit. After a couple positive experiences, and seeing a need for affordable living spaces for such community members, she has rented space to more people than she can remember.
The house – a short walk from Aldrich’s – has two rental spaces. A bedroom inside rents with a shared bathroom and kitchen access for $400 per month. The other space, “the shed,” is a former garage which was turned into a one room outbuilding with no plumbing. Sometimes it’s rented as an office or professional space. When rented as a living space the occupant uses the inside bathroom, has shared refrigerator space and can use a hot plate. The rent for this is $350 per month. Both rents include utilities.
Finding renters has never been a problem and she has never needed to advertise. Often they come through local non profits such as the Port Townsend Marine Sciences Center or the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building. Rental periods are usually a year or less. Although only a couple renters have not worked out, these situations have been the only source of stress for the landlord. She usually has found a way to exit the situation without a confrontation. At worse, “I can always hang in for ten months.” One renter of the shed spent only part of his time in Port Townsend. She liked him so much that she didn’t charge him rent when he was out of town. With COVID-19, neither unit is currently rented.
She has never charged a damage deposit as most of her renters don’t have capacity for an upfront payment. But she thinks it would wise to have one to cover broken things. She has found that some renters had a different understanding of what was private and what was shared. For example, one renter wanted to use the dining room to teach classes.
Home sharing has several benefits. One is the financial boost to her Social Security income. When both spaces are rented, she can put some into savings. Another is having other people in the house. “Some people are really special and become friends.” Helping provide affordable housing for the community is also a benefit.