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The History of Homesharing

For as long as people have lived, they’ve shared homes. This dynamic has come in many forms, and eventually gave rise to homesharing as we know it today. Let’s take a look at a brief history of homesharing, and how we got to where we are!

Maggie Kuhn and the Gray Panthers

In North America, homesharing is said to officially have its roots in the US, thanks to the work of the remarkable Maggie Kuhn. As a response to her forced retirement at age 65 Maggie founded the Gray Panthers in 1970, a group dedicated to tackling cases of ageism and other social justice issues concerning both the old and the young, such as pension rights and affordable housing. The heart of the Gray Panthers’ mission was to help older people to seize control of their lives, and take action to address the issues that they care about. She dreamt of achieving social justice through intergenerational collaboration, a value that would lead her in her journey towards homesharing.

Not too long after, Maggie founded the National Shared Housing Resource Center. Having experienced first-hand the benefits of homesharing in her own home for years, she recognized the potential in intergenerational living and created a foundation dedicated to spreading the word and facilitating home share arrangements. In her efforts to avoid seniors living in isolation and being forgotten, she inadvertently created a network that would come to shape the world of home sharing as we know it today.

Homesharing Around the World

Homesharing in Canada more or less followed suit, with homeshare arrangements popping up shortly after the founding of the National Shared Housing Resource Center south of the border. Homesharing was taken up in the UK in the early 1980s, with the first formal program being launched in London in 1993. The concept rose quite independently in Spain in the early 1990s as a response to an urgent need for student accommodation. As word of homesharing traveled across countries, so too did official organizations. Germany, France, and Australia are a few of the countries who have since launched their own established homeshare organizations! Homeshare International, a powerhouse in the modern world of homesharing, was founded in 1991 and helps to facilitate cross-cultural homesharing, as well as expand the concept to reach more countries around the globe.

Informal Homeshares

Even before the rise of homeshare organizations, the concept has been applied by many throughout history. Though we lack official documentation to tell us exactly how common homesharing was, we know through several first-hand accounts that people have turned to homesharing even before foundations existed, largely in times of financial crisis and most notably the Great Depression.

Take our founder Tara, for example. Tara’s own grandmother shared her home in the 1950’s after realizing that with her husband away at work most of the time, she could rent out her spare room to provide her with company and supplemental income. With a clear financial goal in mind, Tara’s grandmother vetted candidates and ultimately found a housemate to take over her spare room, who she then welcomed into the family. Through homesharing she was able to not only find additional income, but she also gained companionship and someone to help her with home tasks!

Though homesharing organizations began to pop up in the last quarter of the 20th century, the act of homesharing has existed for much longer. Humans are resilient and adaptable, and opening one’s home to housemates has long been an effective method for keeping finances afloat and managing household tasks. Today homesharing is an extremely viable option, and it seems like it’s here to stay. With shared homes in adulthood on the rise and a pull away from marriage in young adults, the average lifestyle is changing and homesharing provides an excellent option for those looking to cut down on their cost of living and share their space with likeminded individuals.

If you’re interested in entering a homeshare arrangement or simply curious to learn what it’s all about, reach out to us at HomeShare Alliance. We’ve got the know-how and experience, and we’re here to help!



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