Houses are being bought, torn down, and rebuilt in Durham's East End neighborhood.
A new program sponsored by Durham Congregations in Action will connect people in need of affordable housing in Durham to those with extra space.
is patterned after similar programs across the country. Home providers are matched up with home seekers, and — with the help of a case manager — they negotiate terms that may include reduced rent or help around the house in exchange for a place to stay.
DCIA is currently raising funds
to hire staff to run the program, with an expected launch this summer. In the meantime, a steering committee is compiling a list of interested home providers and home seekers.
Breana Van Velzen, co-chair of that committee, says the program has benefits for both. Home providers can get an income boost and help with household chores they may be unable to do themselves. Home seekers get affordable, stable housing. Everybody gets companionship and a lower housing cost burden in an increasingly expensive city
"It really is like a matching service," she says.
Home providers need to have spare living space and be willing to charge below market rent — about $250 to $400 a month, Van Velzen says, depending on the number of people being housed. Home seekers must earn at or below 30 percent of the area median income, which is about $1,200 per month for one person and about $1,400 per month for two people.
According to a housing profile commissioned by the city, there were about twelve thousand households at this income level in Durham in 2013, and only about forty-five hundred rental units affordable to them.
"This is supposed to be a way to fill in some of that gap," Van Velzen says.
Each match will first have a two-week trial period and a case manager will be tasked with making sure the terms of the housing agreement are being upheld and that no one is being taken advantage of, Van Velzen says. Both sides undergo a background and reference check, take a class and fill out a questionnaire to facilitate the best match. So far, DCIA has one interested home provider and is looking for more people to sign up. (Contact DCIA
to get involved).