Better Together? A Reflection on Collective Housing

 

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For years, Vancouver has been acclaimed as one of the most expensive places to live in the world. With rent and unemployment continually on the rise, it seems the city is running out of options when it comes to providing affordable accommodation.

A possible solution – Dare to share

Imagine being part of a economical living environment that embodies social belonging, freedom and promotes a healthy and eco-friendly lifestyle. This is what individuals who live in collective houses experience everyday.

Depending on the size of the property, collective houses may accommodate a couple to over a dozen people, ranging from single adults to families with children. Rent per house member usually ranges from 400-600 dollars a month, which is half, if not less than the cost of simply renting a single room Vancouver apartment. This also beats out taking the risk of renting a cheap basement room (you probably found on Craigslist) that may potentially consist of mold, bugs and rats. Collective house members usually also share the utility and internet bill which further decrease an individual’s expenses.

One of the collective houses located just off Commercial Drive, The Beehive House, calculates rent based off one’s income. Those who are able to generate more income, pay more and vice versa. This specific system is great convenience for those who rely on a inconsistent income.

Additionally, collective housing serves as a form of activism which allow individuals to exercise their values of environmental and social justice in the home. Each house has a specific system of shared values that helps to prevent conflict, encourages a supportive environment and fuels a connection among residents. Living together fuels a sense of community as house members share food, space and housework. Some house members go shopping (usually bulk and/or local food), cook and engage in sit-down meals together. Some houses may use their own backyard gardens to grow fresh and organic produce which is also cost effective. House members may also participate in skill sharing activities such as learning how to properly compost, recycle, preserve food or tend to the garden which not only helps to build relationships but improve the environment.

During the early seventies, communal living was considered as a popular way of life. Especially in the Kitsilano and West End area. Unfortunately building companies and developers soon took over and demolished most of the properties. However, this has never really stopped Vancouver’s collective housing scene from growing. Currently, there are 48 collective houses listed on the Vancouver Collective Housing Network’s Facebook Page.

With all that being said, collective housing may not be suitable for everyone. But fear not as there are other ways to cut expenses while engaging in your local community without committing to a common living space.

Community gardens are all run by local groups and are a great place to grow your own food while getting the chance to interact with nature and other residents. If you are unable to find a space in your local garden, City Farmer runs an online matching program that connects those who are in search of a growing space to homeowners/gardeners who have an available garden plot to share.

 

Why not bring your own garden grown produce to a community kitchen?

A community kitchen is a group of individuals who meet on a regular basis to prepare and cook nutritious meals together. It is great way to meet new people, learn new recipes and your own improve culinary techniques, all while saving money on equipment and supplies. Often meals can be taken home and preserved to  be consumed at a later time. After all, food makes anytime a good time.

Whether it be collective housing, community kitchens or gardens. All options fuel sustainable communities which contribute to making Vancouver a healthier and connected city.
For further information on Collective Housing:

http://vancollectivehousenetwork.blogspot.ca/

More information on Community Kitchens and Gardens:

http://vancouver.ca/people-programs/community-gardens.aspx

http://www.freshchoicekitchens.ca/

By: Jennifer Phi

 

 

It is evident that we are beginning to question and doubt how we have chosen to exist. It is evident through the continuation of uprisings and protests in countries led by coalitions of youth and humanists, like Hong Kong’s Occupy Central, and in Canada, Idle No More and Enbridge Northern Gateway. These are but a few to name. However, as our politicians panic and waver on their ideas, a most crucial thought is lost in the plethora of information, that we can re-create through doubt. We can re-create in the mist of our ideological destruction. However, it is our consciousness, our most humane values that we must rely on. In Vancouver, in our large-scale community, we are in a period of doubt and questioning: How can we all survive in a city with astronomical rents and continuous development? How can we lessen the scale of those who live on the street?

While watching Youtube videos, I came across the channel The School of Life. In it’s short 5min video on Epicurus’ philosophy, it stated that through Epicurus’ quest to discover the meaning of happiness, he found that one of its key elements is to live a life surrounded by friends. So Epicurus bought a house just outside of Athens for him and all his friends to live. It is through his philosophy that living with others equals happiness where I begin to reposition my idea of the communal living concept. It is in this position where I begin to reflect on the excess of the one bedroom apartment concept, and it’s constant need of space, money, and development.

While co-living is not a new concept per se, co-housing, communal housing, and communal apartments is a modern concept, due to that it is partially or completely controlled by a government. After doing a quick Google search, I found on Wikipedia that in Soviet Russia, shortly after the revolution, and because of the sheer mass of migration from rural to urban; Lenin built communal apartments to subside the “housing crisis.” The apartments were built without the human psychology in mind, instead prioritizing mass infrastructure and limited time. When building the communal apartments fast, they forgot to consider two important considerations: the many uses of a home, and who should live with whom. Instead, it was a confusion of space and people. However, it is here in these flaws, which show us what is important about communal housing: how people use their homes, looking further than sleeping and eating, and who each should live alongside.

The revolutionary co-housing concept materialized in Denmark in the 60s. On Canada’s Cohousing Network page, it states that a group of Danish friends developed the idea in the late 60s, and while their concept didn’t come to fruition, an article was published titled “The Missing Link between Utopia and the Dated One-Family Home.” In that same year, 1968, another article titled “Children Should Have One Hundred Parents,” was published favouring the communal housing concept. This new living concept, this new idea, spread like wildfire through Denmark in the 70s and 80s and co-housing communities began to flourish. This type of communal living had evolved and space was organized in relation to how people use their living space.  Many co-housing communities were built with separate living corridors but were connected by common areas like kitchens and living rooms, as well as gardens and pools.

Since the 90s, co-housing developments have erected in many developed nations like Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia. However, they are predominantly focused around the retiree or the family. In our world of post-modernity, mass consumption, and our inherent emphasis on individuality, it feels as if we have left youth astray – letting them organize themselves within the technological barriers of digital media.

It is becoming an obvious fact, that the life of an emerging adult, late teens and early twenties, can be a very isolating and difficult period in any person’s life. While university dorms are an obvious institutional housing community that can help cultivate social circles and friendships, what about for those who don’t attend? In one of the most expensive cities in the world to learn how to survive, Vancouver can be awfully daunting. In East Van, explored by The Tyee, inLife According to Vancouver’s Jazz Kids”  a new scene dubbed Grea$ Van, is led by a group of teens just out of high school. Their neo-Renaissance lifestyle, a desire for enlightenment, the understanding of the origin of ideas, has fostered in the wake of the one-bedroom apartment  – they live in a three story home. The house cohabits both men and women, and couch surfers and short-time tenants are constant. Their focus on cultivating the mind, and doing it through communal connection, has led them to develop a small, trustworthy group of like-minded artists looking for meaning in creativity and friendship.

While there are currently no government options for co-housing communities for emerging adults, those wishing to take the plunge and rent away from home, ask yourself, how do you want to live and who do you want to connect with? You never know, maybe a small housing community might just help you find that Epicurean enlightenment you are internally seeking.

By: Caroline Brown

 

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