Michael Olear, a Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker with Olear Team/MJ Peterson Real Estate and president of Olear Realty Group, Inc., recently pitched 103 members of Leadership Buffalo’s (LB) graduating classes on the need and benefit of establishing a shared housing program in the Western New York area.
In a competition involving nine presenters primarily from local nonprofit agencies including Habitat for Humanity, Journey’s End and several others, Olear was the only private citizen with an idea among those presenting who are all hoping to enlist volunteer support from those graduating from LB this December. His proposition aims to develop a business plan for a shared housing program, locate start-up funding and also identify a local 501c3 organization to house and operate the program.
Olear set the stage by outlining the problem: A growing percentage of seniors are experiencing tenuous economic situations combined with long waiting lists for subsidized housing. He went on to define the “Grey Tsunami” by explaining the economic, ecological and social impact that the Baby Boomer generation is creating as it ages. He explained that 10,000 Baby Boomers are turning age 65 each day, a trend that will continue for the next 18 years! Of particular importance is that in our own community, 59 percent of women living alone are doing so below the Economic Insecurity Zone as defined by the National Council on Aging.
Using 2017 census data, Olear explained that the “Grey Tsunami” is greater locally than nationally, with 17.5 percent of the Buffalo/Niagara population currently at age 65 or older, compared to 14.9 percent nationally.
The solution to our senior housing problem, according to Olear, is shared housing, or making one strong household out of two weak ones while allowing both individuals to continue to live independently.
“My staff and I have located 36 shared housing programs in 16 different states,” said Olear during his Leadership Buffalo presentation. “Some of these programs have been in operation for 20 years, yet the concept just has not come to the Buffalo/Niagara region where there is a great need for it.”
Olear, who earned an MSW from the University at Buffalo and was employed in the field of social work prior to pursuing a career in real estate, is now hoping to pull together a team of program developers to make this a reality from Leadership Buffalo’s diverse aggregate of graduating members from the fields of business, education and human services.
“If we can find the right people to work with, we can begin to develop a mission statement for the project, grow a strong advisory board, create a business plan for implementation in the Buffalo/Niagara region, identify start-up funding and engage an existing 501c3 organization with a corresponding mission to house the program,” Olear said. “I truly believe that we can make a big impact in a short period of time and eventually change lives for the better by developing a sustainable program that will dramatically improve living conditions for many and eventually run itself by utilizing a variety of funding sources.”
The Leadership Buffalo graduates will decide on three or four initiatives they would like to support and become involved with prior to their graduation on Dec. 5 of this year.