Five Truths About Shared Housing

What’s so wrong with shared housing? The answer is nothing.

Shared housing is a completely normal and accepted living situation. Families share housing while raising kids. Roommates share housing, especially in major cities with extremely tight rental markets. College students share housing while attending school together. Shared housing is so common now that it is often considered a luxury to be able to live alone, even for people with higher incomes.

Yet for people entering housing after experiencing homelessness, shared housing is often not viewed as the beneficial, go-to solution that it should be.

Here are 5 truths about shared housing that you may not know:

  1. Shared housing is NOT a lesser option. Living with other people – especially when transitioning out of homelessness – has extraordinary social, mental, and emotional benefits. It also is a more affordable option than renting an entire unit on one’s own.
  1. Shared housing is flexible. There are multiple options and ways that people can share housing, whether through formal or informal arrangements. Shared housing doesn’t have to be sharing a simple apartment with a roommate; it can be adapted to fit different demographics (such as families, seniors, or individuals) or can fit different affinity groups (e.g., people who are in recovery or people who identify as LGBTQ).
  1. Shared housing is totally worth it financially – for people experiencing homelessness and the homelessness system. Shared housing is often significantly less expensive than living alone, especially considering the nationwide affordable housing shortage. It lowers the cost per tenant and accelerates how quickly the homelessness system can house people.
  1. Shared housing can maximize quality of life. Since shared housing makes housing more affordable for each person in a unit, tenants may be able to rent units in neighborhoods that otherwise may not be affordable to them. This proximity provides access to better schools, amenities, job opportunities, and transportation, among other benefits.
  1. Shared housing doesn’t have to be forever. Like all living situations, shared housing does not have to be a rest-of-your-life option. It can serve different purposes for different people: it could be an in-between situation on someone’s way to their own unit, or it could be someone’s preferred way to live. Either way, shared housing is not the mode of housing that people need to stick with the rest of their lives.

Every provider’s goal should be to get people into permanent housing – whether that be on their own or in a unit with other people. Ultimately, shared housing is an approach that can lead people experiencing homelessness into stable housing situations. With an extremely tight rental market, exploring shared housing in your community can widen the opportunities available and provide more sustainable options for people transitioning from homelessness into housing.