Home Share Oregon has an innovative solution to tackle Oregon’s housing crisis – and it’s not as complicated as it may seem – if you have a spare bedroom, you could be a part of the solution. 

The program and its supporters say it’s the simplest way to cut the low supply of housing within the state.

Home Share started in 2019 and has the backing of the Oregon Legislature, which created a pilot property tax abatement incentive for homeowners during the 2019 legislative session – but will only be enacted if county governments approve. 

So far, no county governments have signed up for the pilot program, though the program continues to lobby officials in Lane County because supporters say it could increase homeowner participation and not affect government income.

On Saturday, Home Share Oregon’s executive director Tess Fields and Lane County area representative Judy Smith spoke to community members, local politicians and organizers about the ins-and-outs of Home Share, who it benefits, and how it works. 

County Commission candidate David Loveall, State Representative John Lively and Eugene City Council member Matt Keating were in attendance, as well as homeshare seekers and supporters. 

Fields told attendees that the program serves the housing insecure in Oregon – students, shift workers, people living out of their cars or campers are all encouraged to apply. 

“I was really interested in trying to figure out how to turn the spigot off in terms of the numbers of people who were being displaced,” Fields said. “So we took a look at the Oregon census and learned that there’s 1.5 million owner-occupied homes across the state – and if just 2% of those homeowners decided to rent out a spare bedroom, we can house 30,000 people affordably.” 

Fields and her team’s research also found that 1 out of 3 Oregonians is “mortgage burdened” and spending more than 30% of their income on their mortgage payment. “So for us, this seemed like a very natural solution to support middle-income owners and renters,” Fields said. 

According to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, Lane County’s fair market rent prices are high compared to the national average – the average monthly cost for a single bedroom home being $1,300 per month. 

HUD also reported rental availability was just over 2% for the county – meaning not only are homes in high demand, but they are expensive too. 

Home Share works similarly to a dating app – bringing together homeowners and renters with similar interests or living styles.

 “You have to be honest with them, and yourself. This isn’t the time to lie about being a clean freak – we’re trying to match you with someone who will be a long-term fit,” said Fields. 

Participants can also do background checks through the website. And if rent is paid online, Fields says an insurance policy is included – $100,000 for homeowners and $10,000 for renters. Home Share pays for Silvernest, so it is available to Home Share users for free. 

Home Share is about chipping away at Oregon’s shortage tapping into an unused housing supply, Fields says. 

“Affordable housing is difficult to access in many parts of the country. It’s difficult to access here in Oregon,” she said.

“This is really about using the inventory that already exists in terms of development and housing and putting that in a situation that’s helping to solve the housing crisis.”