Family of Woodstock pilot project matches housing seekers with rooms

A new program is launching to help address a severe lack of affordable housing and keep older residents in their homes. Family of Woodstock has announced a home-share pilot project in Woodstock where, in exchange for reduced rent, people can provide homeowners with house and yard work, transportation, computer help, assistance with other tasks or companionship. The tenants will either live in the home or in accessory apartments on the property.

Homeowners and those seeking a living space can learn more at a December 8 informational session at the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center, 56 Rock City Road, from 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m. Masks are required. Applications for both homeowners and home-seekers will be available in English and Spanish at the session and at Family of Woodstock, 16 Rock City Road.

Once the program is up and running, the hope is other communities will follow suit, said Susan Goldman, Woodstock Housing Committee co-chair and longtime Family of Woodstock volunteer. The hosts and guests will be interviewed by three people; a retired social worker, a graduate student whose field is social work, and a pastor. “It’s important having only a few people so they’re familiar with the people getting matched,” Goldman said. “The first thing is to get enough houses so that we have some choice.” She noted that there should be plenty of tenants, or guests, who want to join the program.

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Family of Woodstock workers will conduct full criminal and financial checks on all applicants and all information will be held confidential until it is time to match a host with a guest. “Then they meet. There is a preliminary agreement with the expectations and tasks,” she said.

Once both parties are satisfied, there is a two-week trial period where no money is exchanged. The guest should keep their current home during the trial period in case things don’t work out, so they would have a place to go.

The program will seek to match homeowners with a space to share within 10 miles of Woodstock’s center with people needing housing. Priority is given to those who work or volunteer in town, who already live in town or who were recently forced out of their rental. Living space offered by the host can include a room in their home, an apartment above a garage or a studio or cottage separate from the main house.

In communities that have home-share programs, very few arrangements go badly, and Goldman is confident in the Woodstock program’s so-called “high-touch” approach. But she understands we’re all human and people’s situations can change. Some hotline staffers who are well-versed in conflict resolution will handle any issues or disputes that may arise, Goldman said.

One of the big target audiences is local businesses since many store and restaurant workers and even volunteers live elsewhere. “You don’t go into any business in town where they don’t say this is difficult,” Goldman said.

“Every Ulster County community has been touched by the scarcity of affordable rentals, and Woodstock has been among the hardest hit,” said Deputy Town Supervisor and Councilwoman-elect Maria-Elena Conte, who has done a lot of the legwork to make the program happen. “Many individuals working in our town’s restaurants or stores struggle to afford housing in the very community that they support economically…Woodstock has a history of helping our citizens in tangible ways. I believe relationships can flourish and deepen because of the mutual benefit home sharing offers. This proven solution will help our seniors, artists and workers.”

The New York State Office for the Aging supports Woodstock’s new program. “Home share projects have proven to be successful in reducing the cost of housing, increasing friendships, combatting social isolation, and, many times, helping an older adult with household tasks that help them maintain their independence,” said NYSOFA Director Greg Olsen.

For more information, email homesharewoodstock@familyofwoodstockinc.org, or call/text (845) 679-2485.