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Co-living housing model coming to Victoria

Co-living setups typically appeal to people new to the area who are interested in expanding their social circle — combating the "urban loneliness that we’re seeing in so many cities," the developer says.
An artist’s rendering of Townline’s proposed 16-storey building at the corner of Pandora Avenue and Vancouver Street. TOWNLINE HOMES

A new model of communal housing that allows renters to share a furnished kitchen and dining space with others in a co-living pod is set to come to Victoria.

Councillors unanimously approved a 16-storey building at the corner of Pandora Avenue and Vancouver Street with ground-level commercial space and 121 rental units, including 54 fully furnished co-living apartments organized into three-, four- and five-bedroom pods.

Tenants in the co-living units will rent their bedrooms directly from the property manager. Most will have a private bathroom, but some will share between two.

Rents are expected to be about 30 per cent less than market rent for a studio apartment in Victoria.

The co-living housing model is on the rise in Toronto, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York, appealing to people new to the area who are interested in expanding their social circle, says the developer, Vancouver-based Townline, but it would be a first for Victoria.

“The co-living is designed with the intent of fostering communities both in the building and community-wide throughout the neighbourhoods with curated weekly and monthly events,” said Chris Colbeck, senior vice-president of Townline.

Colbeck said the property management team will include a social lifestyle curator, whose job is to plan social events, such as wine tasting or movie nights. A weekly event in the building and a monthly outing will be included in the cost of rent for those in co-living pods, while residents of the 67 traditional one- and two-bedroom rental units can pay to participate in social events, Colbeck said.

“We see some big demand for that and to help combat this urban loneliness that we’re seeing in so many cities,” he said.

The management team would strive to place people in pods with others of similar ages and who have similar interests, “almost like matchmaking,” Colbeck said.

The model tends to attract a younger crowd, around 25 to 35, looking for flexibility. Leases will be available for as little as three months.

“It’s new people to the city of Victoria that haven’t quite got their feet, the lay of the land, yet,” Colbeck said.

Townline plans to start construction this summer, with the goal of completing the building in mid- to late 2024.

Mayor Lisa Helps called the model “a bit of a pilot project,” during a public hearing last week.

“We need more supply in general and I think this project delivers a significant amount of units in a really creative way,” she said.

Jeremy Schmidt, a contributor to Homes for Living, a group of homeowners and renters dedicated to making Victoria housing more affordable, said the co-living model presents both social and financial benefits for interested renters.

“I think there’s definitely going to be a demographic of people that are demanding something like that, that prefer maybe not to live alone and could actually thrive with the social benefits of co-living,” he said.

Schmidt noted that the project, to be built on an empty parcel at 975 and 983 Pandora Ave., won’t displace any existing tenants, so every unit built represents an increase to the supply of purpose-built rental housing.