Models of Alternative Housing


Co-ownership is the purchase of a property by two or more parties who work together to develop a plan, share space and resources, and tailor what it all looks like to meet their needs, e.g. The Golden Girls. In many cases, a house is purchased by the individuals and then renovated to meet their needs.

The emphasis is on relationships and social connections along with security, mutual support, interdependence and independence. While sharing the cost of utilities, maintenance and repairs, housekeeping, insurance and taxes, housemates have their own private suite along with shared living, dining and kitchen space. Each individual has an undivided interest in the property and participates in the planning and decision-making so that the result is geared to the group’s wants and needs. In a co-ownership arrangement, individuals buy a portion or percentage of real property and share the title with the other purchaser(s). 

As tenants-in-common, owners have a clear sense of knowing what percentage of the property a particular owner controls. Co-owned properties are not governed by legislation such as the Co-operative Corporations Act or the Condominium Act. While communication, cooperation and compromise are key, other elements that make this form of housing work are outlined in a co-ownership agreement. Co-ownership agreements define a wide range of terms that govern the relationship between co-owners, including the financing, mortgages, insurance, co-owner responsibilities and liabilities, rules and boundaries and dispute resolution mechanisms. Not just for seniors, this type of housing can work for any age group, including intergenerational.

Port Perry Golden Girls

Port Perry Golden Girls

More than 30 years after that show first aired in 1985, the so-called Golden Girls of Port Perry – four seniors who knew living alone or in a retirement home just wasn’t for them for financial and other reasons – overcame municipal bylaws to purchase a house together. The four women in their late 60s and early 70s live under one roof in a 3,400 square foot home. Each maintains a spacious private bedroom with ensuite and shares communal dining, living room and kitchen. Their downtown heritage home has been renovated to include accessibility features and a suite for a live-in caregiver if required.

The arrangement that makes so much sense would never have been possible at one time in the Township of Scugog because of objections by local politicians. First-term Durham MPP Lindsey Park says that kind of opposition to affordable housing solutions for seniors can’t happen again and she introduced a private members’ bill called the Golden Girls Act.

Golden Girls Act, 2019

All levels of government should recognize that Ontario has an aging population and should encourage innovative and affordable housing solutions for seniors. Local municipalities should not deter seniors from choosing affordable housing options and should recognize that unrelated seniors living together can reap significant health, economic and social benefits. It is desirable to provide clarity to municipalities that the Planning Act should be interpreted in a way that encourages and permits home sharing by unrelated seniors as a housing solution.

Co-owning a Home: Practical information about co-owning a home:

Visit Website – Canadian Cohousing Network
Visit Website – Canadian Senior Cohousing


HomeSharing is a viable housing alternative for those who want to remain in their home and are willing to share some common space like living, dining, kitchen and laundry. Each HomeShare is negotiated to support the needs of both the home sharer and the home seeker. This model of living also offers older homeowners relief from social isolation and the benefits of interdependence and mutual support.

HomeShare’s purpose is twofold:

  • To increase the options for older and Vulnerable Sector people to remain at home with independence and dignity, while fostering intergenerational/interpersonal understanding
  • To provide an affordable housing option for Home Seekers

The HomeShare program is founded on the belief that Older and Vulnerable Sector people have a right to remain in their own home should they wish to do so, living with as much autonomy and independence as they wish, and the community’s service system should assist them to achieve this.

HomeShare programs are diverse in terms of how they operate. Some are run by charities or other not-for-profit agencies, while others are businesses.

HomeSharing for older people:

Many older people who live alone find that family and friends are too far away to give the help, companionship and security they need. Some may find it a struggle to maintain their independence at home, yet do not want to move into alternative accommodation such as a care home. Even if they can survive alone, they may want a better quality of life in their own homes. The needs of older people vary, but some of the most common include:

  • help with household tasks such as cooking, shopping, cleaning, gardening, and caring for pets
  • companionship and friendship
  • personal care – for those who are more dependent
  • security – for example having someone in the house at night
  • an additional source of income

Because each HomeShare match is unique and personal to those involved, there are often hidden benefits where both parties gain much more than they expected.


Visit Website – HomeShare Canada

Housing Alternatives in Hamilton Area


HomeShare Alliance

A. HomeShare Alliance

   HomeShare Alliance aims to create a cultural shift in the real estate and housing markets, one that shines a light on the benefits of sharing rather than selling one’s home. Guiding homeowners through the process of becoming HomeShare hosts and by listening to the needs, concerns and goals of both parties, HomeShare Alliance is committed to finding not just any housemate, but the right housemate for each unique lifestyle.

For more information, contact:

Tara McEwen
Homeshare Director
HomeShare Alliance
5063 North Service Rd Suite 100
Burlington ON L7L 5H6

phone 905-973-9854

Halton HomeShare Program

B. The Halton HomeShare Program

This is a partnership between Halton Region, Halton Housing Help (please create link), and Burlington Age-Friendly Council (please create link). Currently being offered throughout Halton, This program works to match older adults with renters who can help with household responsibilities. Halton Housing Help screens applicants and provides follow-up monitoring services.

The HomeShare Toolkit (please create link) is a useful guide in determining if HomeShare is a good option for you

Contact: Heather Thompson, Manager, Age-Friendly Initiative Email:    


McMaster Symbiosis

C. McMaster Symbiosis

McMaster University Intergenerational Home Matching

For many seniors with spare rooms in their homes, a common desire is to make better use of that empty space. With McMaster Symbiosis, a co-housing program that matches students and seniors for a mutually beneficial living arrangement, seniors with the extra space can do just that.

McMaster Symbiosis aims to foster “symbiotic” intergenerational relationships between compatible seniors and students in a living arrangement that improves the quality of life for both parties.

Candidates are matched based on compatible profiles of personal preferences and hobbies. Once a compatible match is created, the two parties spend time together to see if the partnership is suitable in real-life. Ensuring the highest quality matches is of utmost importance to McMaster Symbiosis; students are thoroughly vetted to alleviate some qualms seniors may have about inviting a stranger to live in their homes. Personalized contracts are drafted and volunteers with McMaster Symbiosis continue to check-in and offer their support throughout every stage of the partnership.

McMaster Symbiosis

Tafadzwa Machipisa is a 27-year-old medical student from Zimbabwe studying at McMaster University in Hamilton and living with 73-year-old Constance Jain. They are part of a co-housing program at the university that pairs students with seniors

Golden Girls Canada

D. Golden Girls Canada 

Golden Girls Canada facilitates home sharing connections for seniors. Whether someone has a home to share or is looking for a home to live in, this website is a resource to help find possible connections. Golden Girls Canada does not do the actual matching, rather, they provide an opportunity for people to find other like-minded individuals who are also searching for an affordable friendly place to live through senior home sharing. Sharing a living space is economical, environmentally friendly, and reduces the sense of alienation and isolation. They also offer education on the many benefits of home sharing as well as help to avoid possible pitfalls.

Contact: Dorothy Mazeau


City of Hamilton's Housing Options for Older Adults in Hamilton

City of Hamilton
Housing Options for Older Adults in Hamilton

Prepared by The Senior’s Advisory Committee

This resource guide provides important information about housing and housing alternatives such as “Home Sharing”, for seniors in Hamilton, Ontario. It is meant to help you to stay in your own home as long you are able, then, as circumstances change, help you to gather as much information as possible to help you better understand your options and assist you with decisions about your housing.

Some of the contents:

  • Co-housing
  • Co-operative housing
  • Emergency housing
  • Garden suites
  • Home sharing
  • Life lease housing
  • Renovating – staying in your current home
  • Tips to keep your home safe

To view the brochure, visit this link or click on the image of the Housing Options.

Visit Website