Like many struggling during these hard economic times, one Highland Park homeowner was having difficulties paying her bills.
“I needed some additional income,” said Helen, who did not want her last name included for privacy reasons. So the interior decorator decided to cash in on one of her assets that was paid for: her home.
“I had the availability of two bedrooms,” she said. “I thought it would be ideal to have someone living in those bedrooms.”
Helen decided to buy into the idea of homesharing and looked to the Interfaith Housing Center of the Northern Suburbs for help. North Suburban Homesharing is a free service provided by the center, which is funded by area municipalities, including West Deerfield Township.
Back in June, identified Deerfield as one of top 10 most expensive markets in Illinois to live in. Click here to read that story.
“It started where it was mostly elderly people living on fixed incomes that needed to rent out a room to supplement their income or they were frail and needed help in the house. So they would offer a lower rent to somebody that would help,” homesharing coordinator Jackie Grossmann explained.
“But now it’s really moved to boomers, who have lost [their[ savings,” she said.
Grossmann finds a resident in need of some extra cash and pairs him or her with a renter looking for inexpensive lodging. But her job is a whole lot more hands-on than a real estate agent.
“I see myself as a professional matchmaker,” Grossmann said. “The renter wants a place that’s clean and safe, and the homeowner also wants to have an idea of who is this person that’s coming in.”
So Grossmann does a great deal of research and legwork on both sides to make sure her matches are a good fit for all parties.
“It worked out very well,” Helen said about the homesharing process and her renters. “It’s not a permanent situation but it’s been good so far.”
One is a phlebotomist who relocated to Highland Park from Texas for a new job. The other is a woman from India who is working in information technology at Kraft Foods. Both pay $500 a month for their bedrooms.
As in Highland Park, struggling residents like Helen are sprinkled across the Chicago area. Grossmann gave an Evanston homeowner as another example of someone who used her services. The homeowner was laid off from her job and diagnosed with Parkinson disease on the same day. Grossmann was able to find a renter who paid $550 a month.
“I think on the North Shore there is a tendency to want to make it look like everything is fine, but divorce is happening, people are losing jobs [and] trying to make ends meet, as well,” Grossmann said.
Which is why some area residents are so thankful for the center's services.
“I think that it is the one thing that the government sponsors that is very helpful to people who like to live better but can’t pay the expenses,” Helen said. “It’s also nice for the people who have extra space in their homes.
"It’s really a win-win situation,” she added.
On Wednesday, Patch will sit down with a renter who took advantage of the homesharing services. The Northbrook renter says the $200 monthly payment is enabling her to get back on her feet. Return to read that story.