Shared Living: Sharing & caring in the 21st century – Part 1

Editor’s Note:

Revelstoke resident Marc Paradis is a proponent of shared housing as one way of making the sharing economy work for individuals. Over the course of three articles he discusses this concept and its advantages for individuals and families. The second article will appear January 9 and the third on January 13. He has also organized a presentation on shared living and cohousing called Sharing & Caring in the 21st Century, sponsored by the North Colombia Environmental Society, in the Macpherson Room at the Community Centre on Thursday, January 14, at 7 pm.


There has been increasing interest in shared living arrangements as an alternative housing option for individuals, like Boomers, looking for more out of life, and young people looking at different ways of ‘unlocking housing options’ in expensive housing markets. As one architect who designed shared housing for three older couples said, who would “want to grow old in isolation or in an institutional setting? How do you age gracefully in place?”

For example, the three women in the Shadowlawn co-owned house mentioned in the article below who were on NBC television’s Today Show in November 2014 said they have about 100 hits a day on their website These women have written a book about it called My House, Our House: Living Far Better for Far Less in a Cooperative Household. For reasons of companionship, support and affordability, they decided to live together – similar to The Rare Birds in Kamloops. For others it answers the million dollar question: “How do you enhance you quality of life while reducing your ecological footprint and save money at same time?”

While it may not be the dominant way of living, it is gaining increasing momentum and the more people are exposed through media like your publication the more they realize that it may well be a realistic and accessible option for them.

By Marc Paradis

The sharing economy, already vibrant and healthy, is looking at shared living in ways that are both exciting and heartening.

Some examples of the sharing economy impacting different parts of our lives which you might already be familiar with are things like: community gardens, farmers’ markets, gleaning projects, supply co-ops for food, car sharing gr9ups such as Zipcar, Car-to-go, car share co-ops like the Kootenay Car share Co-op, and car sharing taxi services like Uber.

There are also things like Air BnB for travel accommodations, couch surfing and crowd funding for investment. There is no limit to what is possible; and this is enhanced by current technology and extensive information systems.

Faced with societal pressures like epidemic levels of stress and loneliness, a shortage of affordable housing, sky-high housing prices, an aging population, and a shortage of later-life housing options, people are taking more control over their future and developing new models in a vital and dynamic way.

The reasons are as diverse as the people attracted to it but are based on pragmatic reasons around enhancing quality of life and reducing ecological footprint while saving time, money and other valuable resources. We will be looking at these in this series of articles which include the history of shared living, what is happening out there, and how to make it work.

At Calgary Prairie Sky Cohousing buildings don’t make community, people do. Photo courtesy of Marc Paradis
At Calgary Prairie Sky Cohousing buildings don’t make community, people do. Photo courtesy of Marc Paradis

When it comes to shared housing there are a whole range of options, starting with one of the simplest things, like putting a gate in the fence to your neighbour’s yard so that kids and animals can visit more freely. Another example, N Street Cohousing in Davis, California, started when two neighbours took down their side fences in 1986.

It has expanded slowly one house at a time to 20 houses where all the fences have been removed to create a beautiful open space that contains vegetable and flower gardens, a play structure, pond and other common amenities for the benefit of all involved. Cohousing, as an option where you know neighbours and your kids play together, has been growing since introduced to North America in the late 1980s.

Mary Beth Franklin’s August 18, 2013, article Meet the Real Golden Girls in the online Investment News states: “Shared housing could improve the retirement prospects of single baby boomers. One in three baby boomers are single, and most of those are women. As they grow older, many will face financial challenges, and some will need care.

“And just as Zipcar and bike-sharing programs have allowed city dwellers to share transportation on an as-needed basis, cooperative housing could help millions of single boomers improve their retirement prospects by cutting costs, stretching savings and providing companionship as they age. Shared housing is an option available to anyone regardless of age or gender. But the opportunity to buy or rent a house with other like-minded adults holds.”

This article refers to the three women involved in the home they co-own called Shadowlawn, a cooperative household which they define as “a shared housing partnership of two or more unrelated people who co-own, reside in, and jointly manage a residence to gain financial, social, lifestyle, environmental and other benefits.”

The women of the Shadowlawn household have generated so much public interest that they have been on NBC TV’s Today Show, started the My House Our House website and written a book about their experience.

The women in their 50s had originally discussed selling their individual homes and moving in together when they were older but decided ‘why wait?’ From the moment of making this decision to finding a house and moving in together took four months.

These are only a couple of examples of how shared living has hit the ground and is inspiring a huge surge of interest as the option of choice for a whole segment of the population having an interest in enhancing their quality of life.

For more information please go to

Marc Paradis is a Revelstoke resident who does presentations on cohousing and shared living. He can be reached at

Part 2 in this series will appear on The Revelstoke Current on January 9 and Part 3 on January 13.