British Columbia·Roomies

Melrose Place meets Golden Girls: The rise of intergenerational living in Vancouver

Metro Vancouver is seeing a rise in the number of unrelated people from different generations sharing the same house. A week-long series on CBC's morning radio shows is exploring the ins and outs of intergenerational living.

A look inside a home filled with roommates from different generations

Intergenerational roomies from left to right: Amanda Poole, 30, Neha Martinez, 39, Janessa Allen, 23, and Lyle Povah, 64. (David Karnezos )

Lyle Povah loves having roommates and plans to keep on living with other people in his golden years — even if they're decades younger than him.

The 64-year-old lives in a character house in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood with three other people, all of them at least 20 years younger than himself.

Intergenerational living is on the rise in Metro Vancouver and it's the focus of Roomies, a new CBC Radio series produced by Amanda Poole — one of Povah's own roomies.

Povah's household is not an anomaly, according to the latest census data from 2016. The census showed the number of unrelated people from different generations sharing the same house in Metro Vancouver is increasing.

With the high cost of living in the area, and the number of aging seniors with available space, it's a trend that seems likely to continue.

The 2016 census showed that Metro Vancouver seniors have a total of 418,000 empty bedrooms in their homes. 

"In the western world, it seems we are really kind of stuck on this nuclear family and a big house," said Povah. "I think that's ridiculous ... and it's not sustainable."

Povah has had more than 80 roommates in the 27 years he has lived in the house. But nowadays, no one around his own age is applying to move in.

Janessa Allen, a 23-year-old musician, was paying $900 a month to share a bedroom in Vancouver's West End neighbourhood before she relocated to live with Povah. Now she pays $640 a month for her own room in a house with a yard. She also said she likes the benefits of living with roommates of various ages.

"We all learn from each other because everyone has different life experiences," said Allen.

From left to right: Amanda Poole, Neha Martinez, Lyle Povah and Janessa Allen inside the home they share in Vancouver's Kitsilano neighbourhood. (David Karnezos Media)

Neha Martinez, 39, is from Mexico and has lived in the house for a year. She said ideally she would prefer to live alone, but Povah's place was the best option given her circumstances.

"The fact that you are over 30 and you have a roommate is like, what's wrong with you?" said Martinez, about how her situation could be perceived.

But Martinez recently had her salary cut in half and the intergenerational house has been a secure home for her since then. 

She'll be heading back to Mexico soon, so Povah will be searching for a new roommate.

"Many people have lived here from all countries around the world," said Povah, adding that he's grown skilled at selecting roomies over the years.

That's a good thing, Povah says, because he never wants to live alone — and loneliness, along with high rents, are two major problems that urban livers of all ages can face.

Roomies is a week-long radio series exploring intergenerational living. The series runs Aug. 12-16 on CBC Radio One's morning shows in B.C.

With files from Amanda Poole


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?