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Called to one roof

Three Vancouver families move in together to beat impossible house prices.

Home ownership is out of reach for many Canadians. Especially for those living in Victoria, Vancouver and Toronto where the average price of a house is $1.09 million, $1.24 million and $1.35 million respectively.

Individuals and families living in these hot housing markets also suffer from some of the highest rent prices in the country. Renting a one bedroom apartment in June 2022 in Victoria was $1,848, in Vancouver $2240 and in Toronto $2,000 (reported by Zumper). Massive monthly rent bills make saving enough money for a down payment impossible.

But imagine for a moment that a family was able to save enough for a down payment, even while paying a couple thousand per month in rent; after that, they need to pass a financial stress test. As of June 2021, all borrowers must prove that they can afford to pay their loan even if interest rates go up to six or seven percent. As the Bank of Canada increases interest rates in an effort to manage inflation, these stress test percentages will continue to go up, pushing homeownership further and further out of reach.

Yes, there are government incentives to help first-time homebuyers. But in Victoria, Vancouver and Toronto, those programs cap at a maximum purchase price of $722,000 – hundreds of thousands of dollars below the average house price. For the rest of Canada, first time home buyers can only access government incentives for houses below the $500,000 – $600,000 mark, depending on down payment size.

This has encouraged prospective buyers to get creative about living situations and what it means to have a roof to call their own. A recent study by Ipsos and the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board showed that around 11 percent of buyers are asking their parents for a loan to help put together a down payment. Others have joined the tiny house movement and live in less than 500 square feet. A few are intentionally moving in with their parents. And some, like Andrea and Dave Minor and Alicia and Ryan Perez, are combining incomes to buy a house with their friends.

Though for the Minor and Perez families, shared homeownership is not just about the money, it’s a way to live out their faith and be the body of Christ in their community.

Rooted in community

“We’ve been friends since 2014, when we joined a church plant. The vision of it was knowing your community, knowing your neighbours, and really planting yourself in the neighbourhood,” said Andrea Minor. “[Alicia and I] would support each other with what we were doing in our own neighbourhoods, but we were so much more effective when we were together.”

As friends who find themselves constantly over at each other’s homes sometimes do, the two women joked about how much easier life would be if they just lived together.

“At the same time, David and I were looking into co-housing and what they’re doing in Scandinavian countries [since] that helps people who are lonely have a sense of community,” explained Minor. With that in mind, their joking turned into a serious consideration.

For the Perez family it was an easy decision to move in with the Minors. Alicia and her husband, Ryan, had already lived with over 20 roommates and had overwhelmingly positive experiences.

“So much gratitude to our beloved roommates for teaching us to live well with others. Shared living has been a joy,” Perez posted on Instagram in March 2021.

The perks of sharing space

Living with roommates works especially well for the Perezes because Alicia is an extrovert and Ryan is an introvert. “When we would come home from work, I’d be very ready to engage and he would need the time to recharge,” explains Alicia Perez, “but living in a shared home, there was always someone available to welcome me.”

However, even with their combined incomes, the Minors and the Perezes could not afford a home in Vancouver. So they sat down together and dreamed about their ideal third family. That’s when Mark and Lee Stockburger came into the fold.

The three families signed the mortgage and built a house together. As of April 2021, they all live there. The Perez and Minor families share the upstairs living space along with their children, Eli Minor, who is 3 and a half, and Shepard Perez, who is 20 months. The Stockburger family resides in the ground floor suite.

Their house has two units: an upstairs with three floors where two couples live, and a ground unit where
the third family lives.

“Living together has been very good,” said Minor.

“There’s an ease of sharing tasks as young families,” added Perez. “Every young family I know is exhausted and trying to manage work and homelife, childcare pick-ups and meal prep. We have those same challenges, but we have double the adults to conquer them.” With four adults upstairs working to clean, cook and play with the kids, everyone has a chance to recharge, and deeply connect with their respective families and each other.

That includes the Stockburgers. Even though they live in their own suite, they are still connected to the communal life upstairs. They eat with everyone once a week and the boys upstairs love helping out in the Stockburgers’ garden. “[Eli and Shepard] love them, and always want to go downstairs to visit with them too, and that part is really sweet,” said Minor.

A covenant community

Like all living arrangements, there are challenges, but they’re all committed to working through it.

“Treat it like a marriage,” said Minor. “Just like you have a covenant in your marriage, you have a commitment to this way of living, you have a vision for it, you have a purpose for it, then you’ll work through it differently.”

“It’s hard, but it’s not hard in a unique way,” added Perez. “This is just part of being in a relationship with people.”

Author

  • Christina is an award-winning freelance writer based in Victoria, B.C. In her free time, she enjoys reading, dancing, and exploring the world with her husband and two boys.

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