Finding affordable housing is a challenge during tough economic times. Subsidized housing often comes with stringent income requirements, and you can almost count on spending up to two years on a government waiting list even after your application is approved, (if it is approved).What if you could live rent-free without waiting for subsidized housing? The good news is that free housing isn’t just a pipe dream; it’s a common of perk that comes with many paid jobs, and it’s also possible, using a bit of creative thinking and some initiative, to set up your own house sitting or nanny service that covers the cost of housing while giving you a regular income too.
What follows, are ten common rent-free living options. Not every situation will be right for every person. Some people won’t want to try any of these options. Other people can happily choose a temporary job that includes rent-free living arrangements, moving on to a more independent arrangement when they are back on their feet. Still, others are happy living indefinitely in a job in which free rent is a basic benefit.
If you don’t mind moving around, you can live well by keeping an eye on the property of people who are out of the country (or just away from their homes) on sabbatical, on vacation, or away on business. Sometimes, house sitters are paid a small stipend in addition to being given various maintenance duties at the residence they are watching. You may be asked to water plants, walk a dog, or feed a cat and other pets. On the up side, a reliable house sitter can live rent free for most, if not all of the year, once word gets out among the right clientele. You may find yourself ‘living’ in some very upscale neighborhoods. On the down side, every arrangement is temporary by definition, so you have to travel light and respect that the space you tend belongs to someone else.
Lots of people who are elderly or disabled don’t need home nursing so much as just someone around to make a few meals, run the vacuum, and run errands as they come up. Live-in companions typically have their own room in a given household and perform light duties like washing dishes, making lunches, answering the phone, reading aloud, and doing laundry. Live-in companions are usually paid a small salary through a home care agency.
If you have experience running an office and/or a real estate or financial sales background, looking for a job as an apartment complex manager is one way to get rent- free housing. Not all apartment managers get a free apartment as part of their job, but many do, and even those who do not often can rent a unit in the complex at a reduced rate.
If you are handy or have maintenance experience, consider looking for an apartment maintenance position that comes with a free or cheap apartment as part of the job. Many high rise apartments in big cities want the building superintendent or ‘super’ to live on the premises to better be able to respond quickly to problems before real damage is done to the property.
Live-in housekeepers don’t always make lots of money, but having your own room in a nice home can be a good way to keep a roof over your head during a difficult time in your life.
Many people take positions within a household for a year or two, and then move on when times improve. You will need good references and you will want to be clear about what you are expected to do and what hours you have to yourself.
In Europe, many young women hire themselves out as ‘au pairs’ or nannies as a way to travel and see other countries without having to pay for hotels and food. Of course, you must genuinely like children and want to spend time with them. This job is not for everyone, but if you have experience teaching or baby-sitting and can put together a good list of references, it might work.
Universities that have live-in dormitories on campus usually hire supervisors to keep an eye on the students living there, maintain security, and enforce rules. Often, dorm supervisors are given their own quarters and actually do live in the dorm itself.
If you like to garden and/or do yard work, or if you have landscape installation and maintenance experience, you can look for a position taking care of a historical mansion, a public botanical garden, or the large estate of a wealthy client. Groundskeepers and caretakers are typically given their own quarters on the estate grounds in addition to a salary.
If you have a disability, a very low income or no income, or both, you may qualify for public housing assistance through the federal department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). For more information on income requirements and on how to contact a HUD counselor in your area to fill out an application, go to the HUD website or call 888-995-HOPE.
If you have a Verizon phone, dial 211and ask about community housing resources in your specific locale. You can also find a local hotline number by going to the website 211.org. Explain your personal situation to the operator. You may be able to stay for free at any number of halfway houses such as the YWCA, the Salvation Army, or the Hope Rescue mission until you get on your feet and can get your own place. Often these organizations will help to place you in affordable housing and gainful employment as part of your stay.
While it might not be the best reason for making a life altering decision, many people do join the military so they will have affordable housing and medical care while learning a skilled trade. Whatever you decide, it’s good to know that there are ways to live without paying rent and that you do have options, even in the most difficult of circumstances. Sometimes just knowing that choices are available can turn a crisis into an opportunity.