Unique Winnipeg housing co-op struggles to find roommates
'We don't have people lined up to join us,' says Beverly Suek, founder of Women's Housing Initiative Manitoba
Beverly Suek's unique housing idea in Winnipeg has attracted a lot of attention, with media from across Canada doing stories on what she describes as "an intentional community."
About two years ago, Suek founded Women's Housing Initiative Manitoba and decided to share her large Riverview home with other women over the age of 50, who didn't want to live alone.
But despite all the interest, there's been reluctance to actually joining the housing co-op.
"We've got thousands of likes on Facebook but we don't have people lined up to join us," Suek said.
CBC spoke with Suek as part of the series Modern Families, which explores how people are taking care of each other as circumstances change.
She said while many people like the idea of living together, enjoying both privacy and companionship, something stops them from giving it a try.
"The actual act of moving in and sharing a space with people, I think it's really hard for people," Suek said.
Hard to admit loneliness, Suek says
The 71-year-old believes part of the problem is that not everyone wants to admit that they are not self-sufficient or that they feel lonely.
A lot of older women live alone and are lonely. But you're not supposed to say that out loud.- Beverly Suek
"I think that we have a society where it's not a good thing to be able to admit that you're lonely."
Suek, who was recently named to the Order of Manitoba in recognition of her years of community service and achievement, raised seven children. After her husband died, she found herself on her own.
She believes other factors might be at play as well. Some people may be worried about conflict and not getting along with others in a shared house, or they may not want to give up some of their belongings — sometimes a necessity, Suek said.
"We can only have so many toasters."
Looking at options
She explained that for Women's Housing Initative Manitoba to break even, it needs five residents.
But getting people to stay on a permanent basis has been a struggle. The house currently has a vacancy, but Suek said there hasn't been any interest. Another recent vacancy took a while to fill.
"We're considering an Airbnb as a temporary measure or, you know, maybe renting a room to a student. We need to have that money to break even."
Suek said they've had people stay with them in the short term, when their work brought them to Winnipeg. But in the long term, what happens if the co-op can't get the long-term committment it needs?
"We haven't quite faced that yet," Suek said.
In the meantime, Suek is currently in the process of turning the housing initiative — where currently, each roommate pays a different price depending on the size of their room and amenities — into a co-op, so there's shared ownership. Papers will be filed in the next couple of weeks.
Despite facing some challenges since launching her unique housing concept, Suek said so far the experience has been wonderful.
"What we have now is, we've created our own sort of family connections … between each other."
More from the Modern Families series: