The HomeShare Woodstock program is one of many implements in a growing toolbox being used to help locals find housing in an increasingly competitive market that features sky-high rent and unattainable home prices.
The program was started by Councilwoman Maria-Elena Conte and longtime volunteer Susan Goldman, with cooperation from Family of Woodstock, as a possible way to keep the aging population in their homes while giving people seeking housing an affordable place to live. But it’s not just for aging. It’s proponents believe it can work for anyone who has property and needs some help with chores, maintenance or even just companionship.
The program’s new executive director, Janice LaMotta, former executive director of Woodstock Artists Association & Museum (WAAM), is now working on getting word out about the program and gathering applications for owners and guests. “Because of Omicron (the COVID variant), they had to hit a pause, so things got started up again earlier this year,” said LaMotta, who works with a nine-member advisory board. The program serves a 10-mile radius from Woodstock, including Saugerties, Hurley, Phoenicia, Olivebridge and Shokan.
“So, we’re getting to those towns, posting on employee bulletin boards in restaurants and places of business like that, post office bulletin boards, distributing them at retail shops, anywhere we can think of where we might get the word out to people who would find that program attractive, whether you’re on the homeowner or home-seeker side,” LaMotta said.
HomeShare Woodstock will also have tables at all the summer events including farmers’ markets in Woodstock, Kingston and Saugerties, Maverick Concerts and Woodstock Playhouse.
“The main thing at this point is awareness of the program…people have questions about what home sharing is and specifically what the program does. We’re also just finalizing things for a workshop series that will be presented at the community center in Woodstock,” she said.
The series of Wednesday presentations in August will focus on aging in place, financial wellness and home adaptation and will be co-sponsored by Ulster County Office of the Aging.
“The summer is spent taking advantage of people being out and about, particularly second homeowners who would be up for the season, and really getting our materials out into the hands of everyone we can think of, so that HomeShare Woodstock is on people’s radar screen,” LaMotta said.
The program has 12 guest applications and one host, so more are needed.
“For the program to be successful, we need applications on both sides,” she said. “So we’re also directing outreach to second homeowners and seniors.”
But it isn’t just a listing service. Applicants go through a thorough vetting process and background check to make sure both the host and guest are compatible.
It begins with an hour-long interview. After the background check, if a match is made, both the homeowner and home-seeker meet a couple of times. Then, a two-week trial period where no money is exchanged is the last step to make sure there are no issues.
“It’s just for both parties to have the experience of being together day-in and day-out for two weeks to really confirm that they feel that it’s a good match, and then we go forward. If either one of them don’t feel for whatever reasons that they don’t want to move forward or it doesn’t feel like a good match for them, then they go back into the general pool,” she said.
Home sharing ideal for many situations
“I feel like the program is a good fit for Woodstock in particular, because of the profile of many in the community. There are a fair amount of seniors in our community, and people who want to continue to live in their home and they’re aging,” LaMotta said.
That is where a task exchange part of home sharing comes into play. While not mandatory, an arrangement might include housekeeping, property maintenance, gardening, helping the homeowner with grocery shopping or any number of tasks in exchange for a reduced rent.
“Or they could simply want companionship, or security too. Maybe there’s a second homeowner who would feel really good to know that somebody was on their property consistently. It’s a win-win for both, provided it’s the right match,” LaMotta said.
HomeShare Woodstock is seeking applicants for guests and hosts, and also people interested in volunteering as board members.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 845-679-2485 for more information.