"They go out of town and I take care of their cat," said Elena. "I water the plants and maintain the house just as I would my own place."
Based on Elena’s income and the property itself, program staff told Vivian and Bruce they could have asked for up to $815 a month in rent, which is close to the program’s average rent of $900. But Vivian said the deal wasn’t about maximizing profit.
"To us, it was more important to get somebody that was dependable, that was responsible, that was trustworthy," said Vivian.
It’s now been over six months since Elena moved into her new home and, so far, she said it’s been working out.
"I mean you can feel it sometimes when you click with someone," said Elena. "We're still getting to know each other, but it's been a good connection."
And the feeling’s mutual for Vivian and Bruce.
"I noticed recently she bought a plant for her room and I thought that was kind of like putting down roots," said Vivian.
Santa Clara’s House Sharing Program hopes to connect 50 more people with affordable housing in its second year. But with only 28 open rooms available now, the county has to win over more homeowners like Vivian and Bruce. There’s no problem winning over renters, though. At any given time there are 60 housing seekers waiting to be matched.
But how is this any different from something like a smartphone rental app or using Craigslist? Well, according to Elena, there’s a big difference.
"Compared to Craigslist, this is like winning the lotto," said Elena. "You never know who you’re going to get on Craigslist. There's a lot of fake rentals out there. You just don't know."