The numbers are staggering. In the first 12 weeks after Governor Brown declared a state of emergency in March, 450,000 Oregonians filed for unemployment and an estimated 50,000 lost insurance coverage.

With the expiration of enhanced unemployment insurance and Congress deadlocked over another coronavirus aid package, thousands of Oregonians are close to losing their homes and struggling to feed their families. That’s on top of the affordable housing crisis that existed before the pandemic.

Oregon Harbor of Hope (OHOH) co-founders Homer Williams and Don Mazziotti have already helped the homeless by providing shelter beds and services at the Navigation Center, hygiene services, food, tents and more.

Now they have introduced Home Share Oregon to match those in need of housing with homeowners who have extra space. The innovative concept pairs home-sharing technology with community social services for support. The result offers affordable housing to those in need and a way for homeowners to stay in their homes.

“This program has the potential to prevent foreclosure and create literally thousands of rentals out of thin air because the rooms already exist,” said Williams.

According to Census data, there are over 1 million spare bedrooms in owner-occupied homes in Oregon. Just a two percent penetration of the available rooms would create 20,000 room rentals.

“If we can connect homeowners with support and make home-sharing possible for them, we can help seniors age in place, families keep their homes, and simultaneously create rentals that people on fixed incomes can afford,” said Marissa Cade, Home Share Oregon’s program manager.

The program is much more than a matching service. Once homes are identified for a listing, community partners offer support to both the owner and to Home Share Oregon clients to create a successful arrangement.

OHOH recently launched the website to pair homeowners with rental seekers.

Homesharing is already successful in Portland. Joanne, 82, lived independently and alone in her home for many years until Home Share Oregon’s partner, Metro Home Share, matched her with Linda, a retiree living on Social Security who could no longer afford Portland rents.

Linda moved into Joanne’s home and they became great friends. Home Share provided affordable housing for Linda, and the monthly income helped Joanne stay in her house. Joanne’s daughter Angela said, “I’m thrilled that they found each other. “

Home Share Oregon represents a modern twist on a solution that homeowners have used in tough times for generations, but instead of the boarding houses of yesteryear, Home Share Oregon uses compatibility matching software from Silvernest to pair homeowners with room-renters they relate to.

Property tax relief for homeowners in the program is also possible, thanks to a new state law passed by the legislature and signed by the governor that enables counties to pass a local option partial tax exemption.

This is another incentive for homeowners to participate, create housing from unused available space, and help them stay in their homes.

To post a rental listing or create your renter-profile visit HomeShareOregon.org.