In light of Canada's recent housing crisis and senior boom, a new way of living has emerged for many people across the country: homesharing. Now, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, those homeshare arrangements may be tested.
With the pandemic forcing all non-essential businesses to close and with Canadians staying home as much as possible, practicing social distancing and in cases of illness, self-isolating, where does that leave householders and housemates?
If you're in a homeshare arrangement, it's important to have a conversation with those you're sharing space with to ensure everyone involved feels safe, respected and is clear on boundaries and expectations during the COVID-19 crisis. Although some of these conversations are difficult, it's important to have them now in order to reduce the potential for conflict down the road.
1. Talk About the What-If's Surrounding Your Finances
As companies are forced to shut their doors and scale back or stop operations completely, lay offs are happening in the thousands and unemployment rates are skyrocketing to unprecedented levels across the country. If you're a housemate, how will you pay your rent to your householder if you lose your job? If you're a householder, how will you pay your mortgage and household bills if your housemate loses their source of income or you fall ill?
It's important to explore the what-if's around this situation. Having a calm, open discussion now can help alleviate any anxiety around financial uncertainty and will also help all parties put a back-up plan in place.
In some cases, accessing government support programs like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), will be an option. In other instances, the householder may have the financial freedom to offer some flexibility to their housemate. The solution you come up with will be unique to your homesharing situation, but the point is that it's critical to discuss finances now.
2. Create an Emergency Plan
What happens if one of you become ill with COVID-19? Put an emergency plan in place, and consider things like:
How will you each get groceries or perform other essential tasks?
How will you isolate within the home? Can shared living areas be kept safe if one person is ill and the other is not?
Who will care for your pet if you're hospitalized?
Sharing emergency contact information of people who should be notified in case of a medical emergency.
How will you continue to meet financial or other homeshare obligations while ill?
3. Mental Wellness
One of the advantages of a homeshare arrangement is that it combats loneliness and isolation, which can strengthen mental wellness. It's important to discuss how you and your home share partner can support each other's mental wellness during this time, including signs to watch out for regarding anxiety and depression.
Keep in mind that while homesharing is a great way to combat loneliness, you are not responsible to take on the mental wellness of another person. Set clear boundaries and ensure you respect each other's need for mental and physical space during this stressful time.
4. Set Clear Boundaries and Expectations
Having clear boundaries and expectations is an important part of a healthy homeshare arrangement, and this is especially true during moments of crisis. Re-visit the existing boundaries and expectations that you each have and discuss how these may change throughout the duration of the pandemic.
It's critical to have an open, honest and respectful conversation with your housemate about all these topics. The sooner you have this discussion, the more secure you'll feel within your homeshare arrangement. The team at HomeShare Alliance is here to answer any questions you may have about your existing homeshare arrangement during this difficult time. As a non-essential service we're not able to support new home shares at this time, but we remain available to offer our advice, so please reach out to us with any questions you may have.