City of Sequim explores homeshare programs

As Sequim city councilors seek solutions for Sequim’s housing crunch, they unanimously agreed on May 23 to have city staff explore possible homeshare programs.

Councilor Vicki Lowe has recommended the concept at council meetings in recent months that could match two or more people to share a home.

Lowe said at the April 25 meeting that the University of Washington’s “Homeshare Study Policy Recommendations” was presented for a house bill that creates a home sharing support grant program.

Researchers write that homesharing “tackles two problems at once — assisting middle class people to hold on to their homes while extending vacant bedrooms to those who might otherwise fall into homelessness.”

In the study, Lowe said various agencies, such as those in Kitsap County, report it costs about $1,000 per match each year to conduct background checks, help set conditions for renting, do regular check-ins and help with any possible mediation.

“It’s not a homeless person, but someone at risk (of homelessness),” Lowe said of who could participate in such a program.

In the study, researchers write that home matching programs can help rural communities “by lessening the burden on healthcare and public health systems.”

Lowe said it’s unclear how a local program would be funded in Sequim.

Assistant city manager Charisse Deschenes said most of the programs city staff has researched so far operate without a city government’s direct involvement, but that they could investigate how a city could have input without financial stake.

At the April 25 meeting, Sequim mayor Tom Ferrell said he prefers the city not managing a program and that solving the housing issue requires multiple facets.

“This puzzle is going to be a lot of pieces to make it work,” he said.

Councilor Rachel Anderson said she prefers a third party agency managing it and that through the right agency it could address other community concerns with wrap-around services.

Lowe said some agencies also address juveniles at risk of homelessness through homesharing programs, too.

Councilor William Armacost expressed some concerns at the May 23 meeting about potential elder abuse in a retirement community, but Lowe said the programs pay a social worker to check in on homes to ensure no one is abused or taken advantage of in any capacity.

Councilor Kathy Downer said at the same meeting the city does not want anything bad to happen to its residents and that they should explore partnering with a larger agency on homesharing. She added that the city does not intend to buy land for anyone.