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SFU researchers look to maximize living space at single-family homes in partnership program

Click to play video: 'B.C.’s experiment with home sharing'
B.C.’s experiment with home sharing
SFU's Renewable Cities program is partnering with a North Shore community with the goal of maximizing living space through home sharing or renting out secondary suites. Kamil Karamali reports – Feb 5, 2023

Simon Fraser University’s Renewable Cities program has created a partnership with a North Shore community society to try and address some of B.C.’s housing needs.

The goal is to maximize living space through home sharing or renting out secondary suites, working towards housing solutions that can benefit both renters and homeowners.

The partnership, between SFU Renewable Cities and Hollyburn Community Services Society, connects under-utilized single-family homes and their owners to renters in need.

“This is an opportunity to really deeply understand the constraints and challenges seniors have that are interested in having secondary suites or a possible home share which they’ve never done before,” said Alex Boston, SFU Renewable Cities’ executive director.

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“We want to understand what those concerns and apprehensions may be.”

The Hollyburn Community Services Society works to find these isolated seniors with single-family homes that could be part of the program.

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“They’re isolated. They’re having difficulty with housework or yard work,” said Leya Eguchi, a Hollyburn spokesperson. “(The program) could be really mutually beneficial.”

According to statistics found by SFU, almost half of all B.C. housing is made up of single-detached homes with 18 per cent of those inhabited by one person.

Most of the single-house occupants are over the age of 60, researchers say.

If one in ten of those homeowners added a secondary suite that would create almost 50,000 new housing units.

It’s a living situation Bunny Brown found herself in for 11 years renting her upstairs unit to a friend.

“We were both seniors and both still working. Over the years we retired and end up living together at the residence,” she told Global News. “We were able to be there for each other.”

The program is something a B.C. housing expert has been calling for for years.

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“I have often thought that before we build more and more housing, we should make better use of the housing we already have,” said Michael Gellar, retired Vancouver architect and planner. “I’m disappointed it’s taken so long to get attention in Vancouver.”

The housing solutions partnership will run into 2024, officials said.

Researchers hope the partnership and program will be adopted by the province to try and address affordable housing needs.

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