News / Vancouver

Vancouver collective housing gains traction in city strategy

Current bylaw prevents more than 5 unrelated adults from living together

Collective houses usually set up in single family houses, according to advocates.

Jennifer Gauthier / Metro Order this photo

Collective houses usually set up in single family houses, according to advocates.

Collective housing advocates are celebrating as their way of living gains recognition under Vancouver’s new housing strategy.

According to the Collective Housing Society’s website, collective living is when a group of people share not only a house but everything from meals to decision-making, to common values.

The housing genre has existed informally – and sometimes illegally – for years in the Lower Mainland but advocates have recently begun pushing policymakers to change a bylaw that bans more than five unrelated adults from living in the same house.

It appears the city is moving in that direction, according to a report city staff are set to present to council Tuesday.

The wide-ranging 80-page Vancouver Housing Strategy states the city’s commitment to accommodate diverse housing arrangements, including collective housing.

Under key actions, it states: “Enable collective housing as a way to improve affordability and access to existing housing for a broader range of households.”

Another city report specifically recommends that the zoning and development bylaw be changed within one year to allow for more than five unrelated roommates to live together.

Those are big victories for the collective housing community, according to advocate Jen Muranetz, who is on the Collective Housing Society’s board of directors.

“It’s not an issue for my household, but I have had people come up to me and they have fear around being evicted or being caught, said Muranetz, who lives in a five-person collective house called The Lounge.

Many collective households include more than five people and those that are able to find a mansion to share can include more than 10 people comfortably. But it can be difficult to find a landlord who will accept them as tenants, said Muranetz.

She hopes that by publicly acknowledging collective housing as part of the city’s housing strategy, those who live collectively can work with other organizations to help more people find affordable housing.

“We’re looking for the movement to become more well known. Maybe that means partnering with property management companies so landlords feel comfortable renting to us because they know what a collective house is.”

Muranetz also hopes that once people have nothing to fear from bylaw officers, they will be more willing to publicly identifying themselves as a collective household, making data-gathering easier. But it’s already clear that collective housing is a growing trend, she said

There are more than 12,000 members on the Vancouver Collective Housing Network Facebook page, a dramatic increase from less than a thousand when Muranetz first joined the movement about four years ago.

The majority of collective houses exist in East Vancouver’s single-family neighbourhoods, but an increasing number are finding empty houses on the west side, according to Muranetz.

She says the Collective Housing Society will look at setting up a meeting with the city in the coming months.

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