Keeping Seniors Housed: Supervisor Lawson-Remer Votes for New Pilot Program

News Date

The County Board of Supervisors advanced a proposal today to help prevent homelessness among seniors aged 55 and older. Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer cast a vote to create a shared housing program for seniors, an idea from Supervisor Joel Anderson that the Board first approved in August 2023. 

“Homelessness is growing among older adults, a disturbing trend that we are taking action to stop today,” said Supervisor Lawson-Remer, Vice Chair of the Board. “This pilot program will be a new lifeline for seniors on fixed incomes so they can keep a roof over their heads and live with dignity. I want to thank Supervisor Anderson for championing this unique idea.”

One out of four people experiencing homelessness in the region are older individuals aged 55 and up, totaling 2,670 people according to the 2023 point-in-time homelessness count. 

The vote adds to a growing list of actions the Board of Supervisors have taken to help seniors. In February of 2022, Supervisors Lawson-Remer, Anderson, and others passed the creation of a shallow rental subsidy program for older adults. With a budget increase in last year, the rental subsidy aims to help 444 individuals, though there have been more applicants than available funding. It is expected this policy will be a preventative solution to help more older adults remain housed.  

Today the Board voted to approve the two-year pilot, called the Shared Housing for Older Adults Program (SHOAP), and authorize staff to pursue funding opportunities. 

SHOAP aims to link older adults aged 55 years, who earn a low-to-moderate income and may be struggling to find affordable housing, with appropriate homeowners or renters with an extra bedroom. The goal is to create and support approximately 50 housing matches over the next two years.  

Experts believe this will help to prevent homelessness, reduce the burden of housing costs, help seniors stay in their own homes, and offer a means of companionship for the region’s older adults by creating shared living arrangements. 

SHOAP will be administered by a contracted provider that will be responsible for recruiting participants, determining eligibility, and matching them. The program will also provide ongoing support for a sustainable living arrangement. 

Participants must be 55 years of age and older and able to care for oneself mentally and physically. Additionally, home-seekers shall earn no more than 120 percent of the area’s median income.

According to the staff’s report, eligible participants would take a comprehensive assessment designed by the program administrator to assess personal goals, interests and values, housemate criteria and preferences, finances, health, and other factors to appropriately match compatible participants. Once matched, support would be provided to determine an appropriate cost of rent with the goal of keeping the cost at or below 30 percent of the home-seeker's monthly income on rent. Participants would enter into a customized housemate agreement and would receive an annual check-in by the program administrator to ensure continued compatibility and provide any additional referrals to services as appropriate. To support the sustainability of the housemate matches, mediation services would be provided as needed. 

Older adult renters in San Diego County reported affordability as a pervasive problem, especially for those living on a fixed income, in listening sessions and focus groups held for development of the County’s Aging Roadmap. 

Of the nearly 3.4 million people currently living in San Diego County, approximately 908,000 are over the age of 55. According to the California Department of Finance demographic projections, that number is expected to grow to more than 1 million by 2030.