Renters of Vancouver: "This is our second mansion. We've definitely upscaled"

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      “Renters of Vancouver” takes an intimate look at how the city's millennials are dealing with the housing crisis.

      “Vancouver is full of oversized mansions, and a lot of them are empty. I wanted to do something about that.

      I was away, living in Lebanon and Armenia. My wife and I hosted a lot of couch surfers there, and I really liked the vibe. So I decided I wanted to live in a communal house when I got back to Vancouver. I logged onto the internet and found two guys who had already joined forces on getting a place together, so I sent them a message saying, 'Hey, I’d love to be a part of this too!' I had a Skype interview from my hotel room in Italy with one of the guys, who happened to be on a boat on the Fraser River. And between us we made it happen.

      This is our second mansion. We’ve definitely upscaled. The other one was huge—but this one is just ridiculous. It’s a three-storey Victorian-era heritage mansion. Strangely enough it was a UBC frat house about 50 years ago. Can you imagine the debauchery that went down in this place? I think the owner has redecorated since then.

      There’s seven or eight bedrooms—I lose count—and about 10 people live here. I pay way less rent in this house than I would anywhere else. It’s $,1075 a month for my room, so split between me and my wife, it’s only $573 each. That’s pretty cheap for a mansion. You get your room, sure, but then you actually get the rest of the space. That’s the nice thing. If you’re feeling thoroughly antisocial, the place is big enough to find a spot where you can be alone. But if you want to hang out, there’s always something going on in the evening.

      The place is quite like a co-op. Everyone is equal. We have a house fund, where if you want to buy something like pots and pans, or do a project, you can. Together we bought all the brewing stuff, set up the beehive, and we got the vegetable patch going. There’s a cinema room with an HD projector—that’s all paid for by the house. Now we’re kitting out the shed with floorboards, a games console and a foosball table. Last summer, we actually had a communal car and went out on family trips together.

      We originally called the basement the 'refugee room' because we applied to host some Syrians who had been displaced by the war. But they didn’t come. It just takes so long. We said we had a room, and that we had space for a couple without a child. But by the time that anyone even remotely contacted us saying that, 'Yeah, we’d like to add you to our roster', we had to actually rent the room because we didn’t have enough money to leave it vacant. We were really sad about that as a community.

      Whether the house is a sustainable thing in the long term, I don’t know. Right now, it works great. As I say, we save a lot of money. Everyone pays a lot less than they would elsewhere, and they get so much more. My wife and I have briefly discussed when we want to move out, but right now we’re really happy with it—so why would we leave? Especially given how bad the situation is with housing in Vancouver.

      To be honest, I feel really lucky we’ve managed to make this work.”

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