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Vancouver man to live in van for one year

Mathew Arthur has figured out how to own a home in Vancouver for less than $5,000 a year – he just needs to find a parking spot with a power outlet and a garden hose.

Arthur plans to live in a three-quarter ton van it for one year starting Jan. 1, 2013.

“It’s a creative political statement,” the 30-year-old designer and web developer said. “I’ve lived in Vancouver for about eight years now, but I’m frustrated because I want to own my own home.”

Sure, his space will be about 60 square feet and won’t contain a toilet or shower, but for him a place of his own is more important than the traditional idea of a proper living space.

“It’s about having a space that I can modify or change without having to ask someone else’s permission.”

 A design rendering of the space inside Mathew Arthur's van. (Submitted by Mathew Arthur)

A design rendering of the space inside Mathew Arthur's van. (Submitted by Mathew Arthur)

A city bylaw requires recreational camping permits for living on the street or public property, but it doesn’t specifically rule out living on private, rented property. (Arthur will rent his parking space for $250 a month. He has a few to choose from but hasn’t landed a specific spot yet.)

Arthur, who currently splits $1,700 per month rent with his brother in a 650 square foot laneway house, was fed up with the city’s high rents and “very inflated market” that prices out average folks. Indeed, an August RBC Economics Research report pegged Vancouver as the least affordable housing market in Canada.

He doesn’t want his experiment, which he plans to document online, to be too political. Yet he pointed out that many people can’t afford ownership or the feelings of stability and stewardship that it brings, especially those who live in the Downtown Eastside.

He isn’t concerned about making the tiny space very efficient – he’ll have a bed, desk, storage, art and books – and will outsource day-to-day rituals typically done at home.

He will use public amenities for bodily functions and shower after his yoga practice. For warmth, he’ll plug in a space heater twice daily.

Arthur realizes it will be close-quarters if he has people over, but that’s all part of the “intimate” experience.

“I’m willing to adapt instead of just accepting these comforts as necessities,” Arthur said. “I think it’ll be a really interesting year.”

Advice from Toronto man who lived in car for month:

Tanner Zurkoski has advice about living in a vehicle: Don’t do it.

Zurkoski lived in a car for a month – day and night – to highlight how much time Torontonians spend commuting.

It’s quite different from  Arthur’s experimental living space, which he will be able to leave at will, but Zurkoski has a second tip for those about to spend so much time in a confined space.

Stay social, he recommends. Set up a schedule to meet with friends and talk to interesting people.


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