A Thornbury church has plans to bring an out-of-the-box affordable housing solution to the Town of the Blue Mountains and Meaford.
Georgian Bay Home Share is a new outreach project being launched by Grace United Church Thornbury, where senior home owners with extra space can be matched with younger people seeking homes who are willing to help with light chores in exchange for a reduced rental rate.
“We saw a need in the community,” said Diana Dolmer, lead organizer behind the program. “There isn’t affordable housing, and therefore, there’s a lack of people to work in the service industry. We thought this is a way we could address it. We’re a small church, we don’t have much money and we’re older.”
“This way, we don’t need to build a building. They’re already there,” she said.
Dolmer says the idea was first floated within the church in 2017. In February 2022, Dolmer said she decided she wanted to push forward on the idea.
“This doesn’t cost the taxpayer any money. It seems like one solution to a very huge problem,” she said. “If young people can’t afford to live here, they’re going to leave, and then we’re going to have a community of just older people.”
The benefits of the program for seniors include the opportunity to age in place for longer, companionship, supplementary income and safety. Benefits for home seekers can also include companionship and support, as well as reduced rental rates.
“I like being around young people. I learn new things and see how the world works and changes,” she said.
Dolmer says ideal homeowner candidates are seniors who live in their own homes and want to stay in their own homes, but perhaps are having difficulty keeping up with the upkeep.
“Maybe people who are having trouble cutting their lawns, shovelling their snow or getting groceries,” she said. “We’ll match them with a younger person who is employed but could also help with one or more of those tasks, which would be decided when we get them together for an interview.”
Arrangements will be made based on the circumstances and needs of each match. Church members will help with the mediation of meetings between potential matches, and will help to draw up formal, written agreements between parties. Support through the church will also be provided to both parties for six months post-match. Homeowners and home seekers do not need to be a member of the church to participate.
“We will be with them, but the decisions will be between the homeowner and the home seeker,” said Dolmer.
In order to sign up as a potential homeowner or home seeker through the program, email [email protected], or call Dolmer directly at 519-378-4734.