A new way of living is coming to Victoria, as developers think outside the box in an attempt to ease the strain on low rental vacancies.

This month, city council unanimously approved Vancouver-based Townline’s proposal to build a new 16-storey complex at the corner of Vancouver Street and Pandora Avenue.

But it will be far from the typical build, as the company introduces “co-living” to BC’s capital—a first for the area.

Along with 121 rental homes plus ground-level commercial space, there will be 54 three-, four- and five-bedroom co-living pods, each with a shared furnished in-suite kitchen space and an ensuite for most bedrooms.

Construction is set to start this summer and wrap up in 2024.

According to Chris Colbeck, the co-living style has become quite popular across North America, on the rise in major cities like Toronto, Seattle and New York.

The Senior Vice President for Townline says proposed designs provide people with the opportunity to be part of a “true community or vertical neighbourhood.”

And that’s something needed now more than ever, Colbeck says, as COVID-19 takes hold of people’s social lives and well-being.

“If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that urban loneliness exists and people crave human connection, community, flexibility and don’t want to live in isolation,” said Colbeck. 

“This building provides the opportunity to live in new amenity-rich rental accommodations with a built-in social life.”

According to Townline, while not designed specifically as affordable housing, co-living will offer more housing supply as local rental prices continue on an upward trend.

During a January 13th public hearing, Mayor Lisa Helps voiced her support for the project, touching on its many benefits.

“If I were in my early 20s, this is the exact kind of place I would choose to live. Particularly if I was a student or new to a city,” Helps said. 

“And if I end my life single and alone, this again might be a good place for me to end up.”

Helps highlighted that more rental supply is needed locally, especially affordable housing. After combing the details, she finds the project will deliver a significant amount of units in a creative way.

“It’s a bit of a pilot project, I guess, but it’s all private capital taking the risk – no public dollars,” she added.

“Council’s policy … doesn’t require affordability with rentals. We are just trying to get as many rental buildings built by the private sector, and then working as hard as we can with the private sector and non-profits and governments to get affordable rental buildings built.”