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9 Facts About Canadian Attitudes Towards Home Sharing

Posted , In About Companion Housing, Blog, Intergenerational living

 

UBC Study on Home Sharing in BC

Stat time! Over two thirds of a UBC survey’s 281 respondents are interested in participating in a home-sharing program and over 90% of those participants would recommend home sharing to their family or friends. But wait, what is home sharing, why is everyone so interested in it, and how does it impact you? I’ve taken a minute to examine some new findings from this study, conducted in conjunction with Happipad Technologies, and I’ve summarized 9 relevant facts here for you.

But first what is home sharing?

According to a consumer expert report from homesharing.org, “home sharing is an arrangement by which two or more unrelated people share a dwelling within which each retains a private space. A shared arrangement might involve a homeowner and renter, or two or more people renting a house or apartment together.” More simply put, home sharing is a rental agreement between housemates.

But this particular study zeroed in on one specific type of home sharing that has become both popular and very successful in Europe. Intergenerational home-sharing or IGEN for short. IGEN housing focuses on matching young adult renters, usually between the ages of 18 and 34, with more mature adult home owners, usually over the age of 55.

Programs can vary widely and, depending on the agreement, may include renters doing work around the house in exchange for lower rent. In Europe, many of these programs have been found to address a multitude of societal challenges including: a lack of affordable housing, social isolation, loneliness, and even economic income challenges. For example, take a look at this short video on a home sharing program for students in the Netherlands.

Hold your horses! Canada is mighty different than Europe, eh!

Luckily this study was carried out right here in Canada, in the beautiful city of Kelowna, BC, with over 70% of the research participants coming from the region. According to the 2016 Census by Statistics Canada, the two major age groups in Kelowna are between 20 – 34 and 50 – 64, which makes it the ideal city for potential IGEN living arrangements. So without further ado, here are 9 enlightening facts from the UBC survey which you probably didn’t know about Canadian home sharing ….

1. It’s economically win-win

It will come as no surprise that economic benefits of home sharing was the primary advantage identified by the study’s participants. What is surprising is that this went for both homeowners and renters, meaning that everyone wins. How can this be?

Digging into the statistics, we discover that just over half of the study’s participants were homeowners while the rest were mostly renters. For owners, close to 90% indicated that “extra income” was a primary benefit of home sharing. As one homeowner stated to have 600 CAD per month is huge. On the flip side, a whopping 94% of renters responded that “affordable housing in a quality home” was the single most important benefit for them. One participant embraced the value of home sharing, stating, “I think home-sharing is a great idea considering how expensive rents are now.  It isn’t good [right now] for students and people on low income and some seniors.”  So there you go, everyone wins! Oprah would be pleased.

2. Low rents that benefit home-owners

Everyone likes a good deal and when asked what participants felt would be a fair rental price for a spare room in Kelowna, over 67% stated between $500 and $800 per month felt right. For renters in the region, these prices are well below the current average cost of $1,200/month for a one-bedroom apartment. A recent report that over half of Canadians are just $200 away from being unable to pay bills.  That could mean that for homeowners, many whose spare rooms are currently sitting empty, this extra income could make or break their monthly budget.  

3. Homeowners want to help!

This one might come as a surprise, but over 70% of homeowners are concerned about helping out students and young adults. In fact, it was the second most popular perceived benefit of home sharing among owners. Providing affordable housing to the younger generation is perceived as a way of giving back to the local community and supporting the next generation. One Kelowna resident participating in a Kelowna home-sharing program stated, “[n]ot only do I have a great roommate, I also know I am helping support a young person trying to make his way in the world.”

4. Beyond monetary benefits

We all know that money isn’t everything. In fact, over 50% of owner respondents identified home sharing as providing some form of companionship. From the renters perspective, over 50% indicated they were interested in both companionship and a family environment. Why so many?

According to one Statistics Canada study, the issue of social isolation is on the rise as “[t]he  number of persons living alone in Canada has more than  doubled over the last 35 years, from 1.7 million in 1981 to 4.0 million in 2016.” It’s no wonder that home sharing is perceived to provide a sense of community and belonging. One respondent commented “… my aunt (over 80) has shared accommodation in the past, and with success …. She needs the extra income and would appreciate the company…. She has always been single, no children, so care is becoming a bit of an issue”. It’s really clear that being lonely sucks!

But there are even more benefits. 50% of home owners also identified the added security of having someone in your home while being away for a long period of time as a benefit. Many also cited having assistance for household chores, assistance for emergencies, and even pet care as important. For guests 77% we’re looking for a furnished house and over 60% were happy to make new connections to do so. As the same respondent notes of his 80 year old aunt things like carrying heavy items from the car would be a tremendous help for her!”

5. Concerns about home sharing

Ok, wait a minute. If home sharing is so great, why isn’t everyone doing it? Great question! The UBC study probed the perceived risks associated with home-sharing, and not surprisingly, some concerns were raised about living with a stranger.  Close to 80% of participants voiced concerns about “privacy”, closely followed by “trust” and “compatibility”, which was mentioned by 66% of participants. And we can relate. With all the negative media surrounding things like Facebook privacy and internet scams, it seems crazy to let someone you don’t know into your house. But what’s really fascinating is that despite these concerns, respondents still overwhelmingly agreed that they would be interested in home sharing, with over two-thirds expressing interest in joining a program if one was available.

And what’s more, many concerns the study thought would be really pressing were not really a concern at all. Only 20% of participants felt that “cultural difference” would be an issue and even less identified the “generation gap” as a potential problem. Other concerns raised by a few participants included cleanliness, lifestyle, and safety.

6. Multi-cultural experiences welcome

As this CBC article notes, multiculturalism has become central to Canadians’ identity. And with opinions ranging the full spectrum, it is fascinating to note that the vast majority of the UBC study’s participants were open to home-share with people from a different culture. More than two-thirds of participants stated they were very open to living with people of different ethnicity and religion. On the other hand, less than 10% would completely rule out living with individuals who have different ethnic or religious backgrounds. Not only were most participants open to living with others from a different culture, several participants identified cultural exchange as an important benefit of home sharing.

7. It’s gender inclusive

Gender can be a rather touchy subject these days. But when it comes to sharing a place with someone of the opposite sex more than half of survey participants would “undoubtedly consider it”, while another quarter of them “may consider it”. Yay for gender inclusivity! The remaining quarter would not consider home sharing with someone of the opposite sex at all.

And the statistics get even more interesting the further you look into them. The data shows that females are more likely to prefer to live with someone of the same gender while males really don’t care as much about the gender of their roommate.

8. Everyone likes being around young people!

If you pay attention to the internet, you would think that Millenials and Baby Boomers both blame the other for the world’s problems. How could the two generations coexist together under one roof?

The study grouped different age ranges of participants together and compared what age group they were willing to home-share with. The most surprising finding? The boomer generation wants to be around the younger millennials.

Whether old or young, over 60% of respondents preferred to live with young people in the “18 – 24” and “25 – 34” categories. Say what? The older generation actually likes having youthful whippersnappers around? But not too young!

Yes, the older generations are generally quite open to co-live with people younger than themselves, but they aren’t interested in becoming a parent. They prefer to be friends or mentors. One participant shared his/her experience of co-living with university students:

“I have home shared with a European university student and the experience was great for both parties. I have also hosted 2 foreign high school students and although the experience was okay, there was a significant amount of responsibility for them as you become more of a parent away from the parents. Home sharing with young adults doesn’t put responsibility on the host to act as a parent, instead, you become somewhat of a mentor and friend.”

9. Education level doesn’t really matter

Over half of the participants surveyed reported that it did not matter what the education level of their cohabitant was and that they would really share with anyone. Of those who do show a preference for their roommate’s education level, the study finds that individuals with a higher level of education are more welcomed. Over 85% of people would share with a person having a college level of education or higher while a stunning 94% would share with person having a university level of education. So staying in school really does have some benefits!

So what does this all mean?

It’s actually really exciting because the study suggests that Canadians in British Columbia are ready to open their homes to the next generation. For example, “[t]he data indicates that there is the potential to open approximately 20% of owned residential properties in Kelowna for home-sharing.” As a result, home-sharing offers one possible solution to the growing problem of housing affordability within Canada and may help reduce housing crises in cities like Kelowna.

Overwhelmingly, positive responses from study participants indicate that over two thirds of participants would join a home-sharing program. And the benefits of home sharing are so clear that over 90% of the participants would share a program with friends and family. Canada really is a friendly country, eh!


If you are interested in participating in Learning more about home-sharing or even becoming a part of the movement check out happipad.com for more information.

Download a copy of the full UBC research report here: Happipad & UBC Perceptions of Home Sharing Report – May 10 2019

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