Squamish home builder Dave Ransier says his new communal living building in Dentville could be one piece of solving the affordable housing puzzle in Squamish.
The building, which he calls Responsible Living Squamish, can accommodate 12 people — six on each floor. Each individual has their own room, small fridge, cabinets and bathroom. The tenants share a kitchen (one kitchen per floor) and common areas, including a large deck on each residential floor.
The units are mostly 218 square feet, with one on each floor that is 240 square feet.
The units start at $1,350 a month and include wifi and hydro.
The 4,200 square foot building sits on an 8,400 sq ft lot.
"This isn't going to resolve everything," Ransier said, of Squamish's housing crisis. "But it may be one piece of the puzzle that's needed. And you can turn them around quickly."
The first tenants will be moving into their units in the Britannia Avenue building in two weeks.
Ransier noted that informal communal living is already happening in town as folks have been doing whatever it takes to live here, but these ad hoc arrangements are less secure and the homes are not typically built with communal living in mind.
"People get together and rent a house. The problem with that is that someone sells the house, and everybody gets kicked out," he said. " Or you get a couple of people who move out because something's changed — someone’s got a job somewhere else."
With this multi-person home, it is long-term and formalized, he added.
"They'll commit to their pro rata share of the rent,” he said, noting the rent will be month-to-month, but he is asking folks to stay at least a year if they like it.
This type of housing is a more sustainable model of living, Ransier says.
"They're all sharing all the resources and consuming less, and it just makes it much more sustainable,” he said.
Time is of the essence when it comes to local housing, says Ransier, but traditional multi-family complexes can take many years to get built.
"If I was going to try and build some affordable housing, going through a rezone, and everything is really hard," he said.
It can take five years or so to through the process to build a multi-unit building if it requires a rezoning and the like, whereas this new building takes about 18 months from start to finish.
Ransier, formerly of Target Homes, said he started thinking of building this type of housing about four years ago. He bought the Dentville property three years ago.
"I started looking into a lot more cohousing… in Europe and Switzerland, Germany," he said, noting communal living is more common abroad.
Another benefit of the Responsible Living model is that the folks who live there won't be isolated from the wider community, as can sometimes be the case with other types of housing, Ransier said.
Coming off the sidewalk will be a garden, then parking, then the building.
"So the people who are living in the house are growing their cucumbers, tomatoes, and as the neighbours walk by, that's where they connect. So, I'm taking it and making it a place of connection rather than a place of isolation," he said.
There will be seven onsite parking spots and one car-share vehicle for residents.
The idea is that folks won't need to use a vehicle often as the property is minutes from downtown and is on the bus route.
Ransier said he has ideas for other communal living homes in Squamish — perhaps one for seniors and another for single parents.
**Please note, since it was first posted, this story has been corrected to say Ransier is a builder, not a developer. We later removed a quote as Ransier said he misspoke.