Blossom Co-Housing Project
A creative co-housing model for marginalized folks and single parent families
The hunt for viable housing in Vancouver is a despair-inducing experience for single parents or marginalized folks, made more complicated by the abundance of empty houses and homes used solely for Airbnb. Blossom Co-Housing Project aims to leverage both of these aspects to CREATE more housing options. Our vision is to occupy big, beautiful homes with single parent families or other-marginalized folks, and allow Airbnb to support the running of the house. Creating change for the good of families!
Four short years ago I was a single mom of two boys on the brink of teenagehood struggling to find housing in Vancouver. Landlords wouldn’t call me back when they heard I had children, and prices were so outrageous that I was constantly trying to create new options for us by being willing to accept smaller and smaller spaces while stretching our thin budget even farther to cover a higher rent. One evening in the midst of a despair-fueled temper tantrum, I began looking at the most expensive houses on the market for rent. While clicking through photos with a bad attitude, I suddenly realized that these large expensive homes weren’t just about expensive kitchens and swimming pools – they had huge (and sometimes multiple) ‘living rooms’ that were spacious enough for events. As I am a coach that runs groups, a lightbulb went ‘ping’! I did some quick math and discovered that if I reconcile myself with sharing my homespace with other people, rent could be covered – and I would have extra space in the house with which to get my ‘business on.’
This was the birth of the concept for the House of Dreams – the home I have now been in for four years. After much experimentation, what has proven to be the most functional and financially supportive mix in the house is a handful of long-term residents and a handful of Airbnb rooms. In this space my business has grown, my children have blossomed into independent and healthy teens, and I have evolved from surviving to thriving.
That’s great for me, but what about all the other single parents out there in Vancouver? It has only gotten worse since my last search for housing. This past summer, as I watched two close friends go through the agony of the hunt, I decided there was more I could do. Now that I am in a place of stability, I can help hold the large and scary parts of making this happen for someone else – committing to a larger rent and a bigger space, and bringing my experience as a successful airbnb host to the service of others. I began speaking about this with friends and colleagues, and the feedback was unanimous: we need more of this in Vancouver, and this is a model that has now been proven through the House of Dreams. Anyone can do this; and I can kickstart it for others. It’s time to Blossom.
What does this look like/How does this work?
First: we identify a primary long-termer that feels pumped about the concept, and is willing to experiment in the creation of a house. Currently, we have three such individuals waiting in the wings. One is a queer single mom, another is a woman on disability who has dogs, and another is a single mom of teens with pets. Each of them will be matched with other people with whom they will share homespace as long-termers.
Next, we choose a home that is structured in such a way that it will fit the lifestyle of the long-termers, is located near transit in a part of the city that is appealing to Airbnb travellers, and whose landlords feel comfortable with our project. We’re looking for houses that have 7+ bedrooms – 3-4 for long-term residents, and the remainder for Airbnb guests.
The house lease will be held by the project – Rebecca or another team member, leveraging their privilege to secure space for residents who wouldn’t normally be able to hold such a lease. Once the lease is confirmed, house residents and Rebecca’s team will use Freecycle, Craigslist, and in-kind donations to source any furnishings and other items for the house. Free transport is available for moving long-termers and the collection of goods by way of a van owned by Rebecca’s partner.
As soon as the guest rooms are set up and house residents feel prepped and ready to go, the Airbnb rooms will be listed. Rebecca has many years experience as a host and can manage the Airbnb communication/online presence, while coordinating with house residents to ensure smooth operations. House residents responsibilities are to provide a hospitable welcome for guests, and to help with room changeovers between guests. Blossom House will hire the support of a weekly house cleaner that will help keep the house in good shape for everyone.
The regular income from the house residents (which will fit what they are able to afford – around $500-600/month per room) combined with the Airbnb income will cover the monthly rent. In the summer months when Airbnb income is higher, the extra $ will be held in a reserve fund as a buffer for slower winter months. It is expected that within one year the Airbnb rooms will bring in sufficient income to provide a profit which will serve to repay the initial investment to start up the house, at which point that nest egg can then be used to begin another house. This expectation is based on how the operations of The House of Dreams have shown to play out over the last 4 years using the same model.
The large, useful common spaces or office/studio type spaces within the house will be available for the long-term residents to create additional income for themselves (perhaps they would like to run a group for learning and charge a fee; perhaps they would like to create some art in a studio space; the sky is the limit!). These common spaces will also potentially be offered as meeting space for rent; these possibilities will be vetted and collaborated on by house residents.
Rebecca (or another managing team member) will be paid by airbnb/rental space profit once the buffer amount for winter months has been achieved, and once the nest-egg has been reclaimed for use for another house.
What’s Needed: $ to Get Us in the Door
This is a project that is built to be self-sufficient. All that is needed is the same seed that I had to create the House of Dreams: two months rent and a damage deposit (ideally, with a financial buffer for slow Airbnb months). The most suitable houses Rebecca has been finding in the Vancouver area usually have rent that falls between $4000-$6000 a month. As you may see, we kept our goal low for this fundraiser – preferring to set the bar low while aiming high. Monies collected that reach beyond what is needed for two months rent, damage deposit, and a financial buffer will be put towards a second Blossom House. If we don’t receive full funding, it will not change any plans – whatever is received will still go towards a new Blossom House, and the rest will be covered by Catching Fire Coaching/The House of Dreams and other individuals who are ready to leverage their personal or business finances for the good of the recipients.
What’s this going to do?
This is a game-changer that turns housing options upside down and inside out for those who have struggled the most to find stable and safe housing in this city.
It has been common in Vancouver for several years now for there to be so many people who apply for the same 1-3 bedroom home that it turns into a bidding war with the landlord taking the person who offers the most. If you don’t decide on your first walkthrough of a house that you want it and give the money required on the spot, it is virtually guaranteed to be gone by the time you return (even if it is within the same day). Consider the time and financial resources for people on disability, or single parents who don’t have anyone to look after their children so they can run out to look at a potential lead… In a rental scene where success is dependent on being quick to the scene and flush with funds, it is easy to see that these folks usually end up getting the dregs passed over by others. They often end up with shady landlords; moldy, dark, neglected and cramped homes; and living in unsafe areas. It is frequent for individuals on disability to be denied rental units simply for being on disability; similarly, single parents are often not called back if they reveal they have children. Marginalized people may be rejected on the very basis of them being of a marginalized group. All of these violate human rights, but as there are currently no real consequences to offenders, landlords continue these practices with impunity. Who of these folks has the time to fight for access through a lengthy human rights tribunal case? They’re focused on survival. Folks who are most in need of support, nurturance, and safe spaces are relegated to forsaken places, and often are the first to be displaced when something ‘better’ comes along for the landlords.
Now imagine what happens to a human who’s been living in the dregs for so long, when they are welcomed into a physically beautiful space and encouraged to fill it out with their dreams? Magic, that’s what happens. I can speak personally for how it transformed my life and that of my sons. At one point we were living in a one bedroom where we had to pack the boys’ shared futon away every morning so that we would have room to move about in the kitchen/living room; in the House of Dreams, I found myself wandering the spacious rooms and found myself thinking “what could I create in this space?” It is the difference between hiding in the shadows and claiming a space in the sun. It is everything.
Nurturance is what kids, single parents, and marginalized folk need. Blossom House will give them a container in which to thrive, to feel their value, and remember what they love. Blossom House is taking a page out of the revolutionary handbook – we want to occupy the big, beautiful homes with moms, kids, and marginalized folks who need nourishing spaces to thrive. They’re our future, they’re the heart of our society.
If you’re feeling this, please vote with a donation – we’re happily accepting the smallest amounts! Your vote becomes part of amplifying the possibilities of the project. We welcome your engagement beyond money, as well – here are other things that will help make this project successful:
- donations of furniture, linens, and other household goods
- connections to landlords or property managers who might get behind this concept
- refer to us someone who might be a great candidate for a long-termers of one of the houses
- spread the word around to help the concept gain more life!