Renting the dream: a broke Brit in Van (part 1)


Part one of a six-part series about how one millennial is creatively dealing with Van’s affordability problem.

“What about renting a bloody great mansion and filling it with people?,” I asked. It was mid-September, and my wife and I were discussing affordable living in Vancouver from a café in far flung Armenia.

I was about to move back to Canada to look for a place for us to live while she would be forced to stay behind. Maintaining an income was a challenge in this tiny republic in the Caucasus Mountains (especially for my Syrian wife), and I was about to return to one of the most expensive cities in the world. To support us (both.)


The idea

So a British man and his Syrian wife, who got married in Lebanon, were now sitting in an Armenian café drinking Arabic coffee, discussing financial difficulties in Canada.

Vancouver’s affordability issues have been under much scrutiny these past few years. But in the eight years since I’d left England with nothing but a duffle bag of clothes and a plane ticket to YVR—I’ve made the city home. I had heard stories of many others abandoning Vancouver for more affordable pastures, but I wanted to stay. I wasn’t giving up. I just needed to figure out how to make it work.

But rental prices are extreme in Vancouver, so unless I wanted to live in a basement shoebox in the suburbs, my monthly payment to a landlord would usually be rather high. Making ends meet would involve some serious finesse. And then it dawned on me—filling a mansion with people and splitting the rent could make things way more affordable. And way more fun.

Manicured gardens turning wild

Vancouver is abundant with ostentatious and oversized mansions. In neighbourhoods all over the city, one can find these colossal houses empty, with dust gathering on their polished granite countertops.

Six weeks after our conversation, I left my wife in Yerevan and returned to Vancouver. After crashing on a friends’ couch for a few weeks, I finally got the keys to my own Shaughnessy mansion.

Although my wife was 9,987 kilometres away, living jobless and Canadian visa-less in a tiny back alley house in a former Soviet republic—at least I now had those polished granite countertops and a massive garden in which to bask.

Things were starting to look up for me, and for my double-digit gaggle of new roommates.

Read part two: More mansion, more problems


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