Two families have come up with an unconventional solution to the high cost of real estate in Vancouver, which makes buying a home impossible for many young families.

The Morey family and the Thrift family have co-purchased a home using the mixer mortgage option from Vancity.

Up until about eight years ago, Brendan and Julie Morey were living in Vancouver as renters. As such, they were forced to move multiple times because the people they rented from would decide to sell the house or takeover the rental portion again.

"We felt with three kids, trying to rent in Vancouver was very difficult and just coming to the point where we knew we wanted to settle down, but we could not afford to do that in Vancouver," said Julie Morey.

Around the same time, Andrew and Erin Thrift were home owners looking to buy a bigger space for their growing family. 

The two couples started talking about the issue of housing affordability in Vancouver, and the idea of co-purchasing a home came together.

"You have to take risks and sometimes you have to do things that are uncomfortable, but the payoff is huge," said Brendan Morey.

The families purchased a 3,000-square-foot home for $800,000. The Thrifts live on the top floor, with three bedrooms and a playroom, while the Moreys live in the basement. Both families share the living room, dining room and kitchen.

They also share the cooking, cleaning, renovations, taxes and utilities — even babysitting. 

"It's the affordability that kind of pushes you in this direction. But what we discovered is the day-to-day living part of it is the richness," said Brendan Morey.

Co-owning not for everybody

Both couples agree sharing a home is not for everybody, and VanCity warns there are risks: death, divorce or falling outs for example. But much of that is worked out in a co-ownership agreement provided by the credit union. 

"When people are purchasing a property together, they're not necessarily owning it 50-50. So that is one issue that could be addressed. The other is how they will share expenses, even things all the way down to who takes out the garbage," said VanCity mortgage specialist Ryan McKinley. 

"We want to make sure that they go into a financial arrangement with another individual with their eyes wide open. So we provide them a co-ownership checklist that they can take back with them and work through it with the person they're planning on buying with to ensure that they've thought of everything that they need to think of."

That checklist eventually turns into a legal co-ownership agreement. 

Mixer mortgages a necessity in Vancouver

VanCity said its Mixer mortgages were born out of necessity, as more and more Vancouverites inquired about sharing homes with family, friends and roommates.

Last week, Demographia's 10th annual survey of 360 housing markets in nine Western countries ranked Vancouver as having the world's second most expensive housing — behind Hong Kong. While homes that cost three times the median income are considered affordable, homes in Vancouver cost 10 times the median income. 

VanCity says there is no limit to how many people can enter into a Mixer mortgage, but co-ownership agreements do get more complex as more people get involved.

For the Moreys and Thrifts, sharing a home — and life — has worked out beautifully so far. They say they plan to stay together until the children leave for school.

With files from CBC's Kirk Williams