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Stephanie Leydon, WGBH
Stephanie Leydon, WGBH
Although cities across the country are struggling with a shortage of housing, especially at a manageable cost, there are millions of bedrooms going unused. Now, technology is enabling homeowners with rooms to spare to connect with renters who can’t afford their own place. Stephanie Leydon from PBS station WGBH reports on how Boston has become a launching pad for the website Nesterly.
Cities across the country are struggling with a shortage of housing. But there are millions of spare bedrooms.
As Stephanie Leydon from PBS station WGBH explains, Boston has become a launching pad for a new technology that connects people looking for affordable rent with homeowners who have space to spare.
Before she started her graduate program in public health, Abby Herbst got a crash course in math. There are too few apartments for too many people in Boston.
I called actually a real estate agent. And they wouldn't take me as a client, basically, I didn't have the budget for a regular place. And I was looking farther and farther outside the city.
But she found a place just a 20-minute walk from campus in this townhouse complete with a furnished bedroom, fully equipped kitchen, and the homeowner, Brenda Atchison.
We fell in together very well and very smoothly.
They met online through a home-sharing Web site called Nesterly, designed to connect two generations with compatible needs: older people who want to stay in their homes, but need help.
Twelve-foot ceilings, it's a little hard to heat in the wintertime. So a little extra doesn't hurt.
And younger people who need a place to live.
Herbst pays $650 a month, less than half the cost of studio. And she does chores.
Like, I take out the trash, the snow shoveling.
The home-sharing idea came to Noelle Marcus while she was living in Boston.
It was really, really expensive to find housing while I was in graduate school there.
She's now based here in New York.
I think the average one-bedroom in New York is over $3,000.
Maybe worse than Boston.
Worse than Boston.
She says cities across the country face an affordability crisis fueled by the same trends: a limited housing supply and an aging population of homeowners.
We have had over 6,000 people reach out to us from 280 different cities around the world and tell us that they want us to expand to their city.
Which is her goal. For now, Nesterly is available in the Boston area only.
People have always rented extra rooms in their homes, right? So why do they need Nesterly?
Yes. So according to AARP, 40 percent of over 45-year-olds say they're interested in renting out a room in their home, but today only 2 percent are doing it. And we think that's because the right product and the right service didn't exist.
Nesterly offers background checks, a payment system and ongoing support. A one-time housing aide to New York's mayor, Marcus sees the platform as way to ease the housing shortage and a problem that plagues old and young alike, loneliness.
People don't talk about it a lot. And I didn't actually anticipate it before I came to college, but, like, I had never eaten meals alone in high school before.
If I feel like a little bit lonely or like I want to talk to somebody, I just come downstairs and sit in the kitchen.
Where she and Atchison both find a perspective they couldn't get from a peer.
And you just never know. You just never know what you're going to talk about.
That older and younger people enrich one another's lives isn't a surprise to Noelle Marcus. She moved from Boston to New York mainly to be close to her grandmother.
She's 89, and she's one of my best friends.
An inspiration for a housing innovation that helps two generations under one roof.
For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Stephanie Leydon in Boston.
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