Under-utilized single-family homes are a significant, untapped opportunity to create a much-needed rental housing supply on Vancouver’s North Shore and beyond, according to SFU’s new Housing Solutions Lab.
The Lab—a partnership between SFU Renewable Cities and North Shore’s Hollyburn Community Services Society—has been created to tackle some of B.C.’s most pressing priorities: affordability, social isolation among seniors, and climate action.
The Lab is exploring ways to support older homeowners interested in home-sharing or renting out secondary suites and who are seeking support to manage additional responsibilities, select compatible tenants and provide guidance on legal issues and troubleshooting.
The Housing Solutions Lab: North Shore Homeowners Option sees B.C.’s under-utilized single-family homes as a way to create affordable housing options while providing an attractive approach for aging in place, generating extra income, fostering social interaction and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Single-detached homes comprise half of all B.C. housing, and 60 per cent are occupied by just one or two people, according to Renewable Cities. In B.C., more single-family homes are occupied by just one person than housing three or more people. Most of these solo occupants are over the age of 60.
“An increasing number of senior homeowners are interested in home-sharing and secondary suites, but uptake is low for many reasons,” says Nanette Taylor, executive director, Hollyburn Community Services Society. “This Lab will explore how we can provide the necessary services to allow older adults to age in place, such as rental management, renovations, repairs or a 24-hour hotline.”
Solo senior households are the fastest-growing type of single-family household, leaving abundant under-utilized living spaces that could accommodate renters.
“Creating a homeshare or a suite in an existing home emits far less greenhouse gas than building a new apartment,” says Alex Boston, executive director, Renewable Cities. “New units in walkable neighbourhoods near jobs, services and transit can reduce transportation carbon, costs and congestion compared to typical new housing construction.”
A housing model that offers basic services such as shopping and yard work in exchange for discounted rent could be a win-win solution. An added benefit would be providing an opportunity for social interaction to prevent rapidly rising rates of social isolation experienced by solo seniors.
This project is still in the exploratory phase and a research report is expected to be published in mid 2024.