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neighborhood community home

Home is more than a real estate deal. It’s also about community, a sense of belonging. Here are some thoughts on factoring this in, even when families expand.

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I’ve written a lot about tiny homes over the last couple years, including focusing on a friend whose 1,000-square-foot urban home for his family of five was both a matter of principle and a chosen lifestyle.

That’s why I was quite fond of a story recently shared by the New York Times in which they talked about families choosing to “stay put” despite outgrowing their city apartments. Why? Because of the communities they choose to live around.

Having a home means having a community

Making friends, at any age, can be a real struggle. Whether it’s as an adult in a new city or just as a kid in a new neighborhood, finding new friends is a trying, challenging feat, no matter how cool and confident we might be. Sometimes, just changing the geographical address on a friendship can mean changing everything about it, and that’s sad.

Staying put, however, comes with its own challenges. It means learning to live with a smaller footprint despite the kids’ shoe-sizes getting bigger. It means staying sane with fewer walls.

As I’m writing, I’m thinking about a friend who’s a single mom of three kids, living in a pretty small one-bedroom apartment downtown. She could definitely find an extra room for the same amount of money if she chose to move out of the downtown core, but she’d lose the community that supports her so strongly, and the lifestyle that’s turning her 8-year-old into a pretty amazing personality and creative force we’ll someday reckon with.

Home beyond four walls

Her twin toddlers roam around with abandon in the small apartment and there’s no place for Mommy to have quiet time, but I’d guess most parents of twin toddlers don’t get much quiet time, no matter how many square feet they have.

But do other twin toddler-parents get an amazing community filled with great eateries, diversity, culture, on the edge of one of the world’s top 10 city parks? Do they step out of their apartment and have all of that in just a few short blocks of walking? Are they surrounded with quality schools as well as friends who understand their struggles, who just pop by to help clean, or to take the older kid out for a fun afternoon?

Robson street Vancouver west end

(image: John Bollwitt, johnbollwitt.com)

I’d argue that suburban living, while lauded for its quality of life, really has a lot lacking when it comes to amenities and support and community. That space between homes is often not just physical – it’s emotional too.

Inclusive communities that connect diverse groups of people

Recently, the neighborhood my single-mom friend lives in was deemed the best place in all of Canada to live, for all the reasons I cited and more.

From a healthy base of immigrants and long-time locals through to lifestyle-embracing ethos that allow for everyone from orthodox faiths through to LGBT-friendly folks to live harmoniously, her neighborhood is a place she cites as being the kind of inclusive community she wants her kids raised in. She wants them to understand not everyone is raised in equal circumstances, that people can abide with different beliefs and passions. She wants her children to know that our differences don’t need to keep us apart if we choose to live together.

Vancouver west end Robson street

(image: Steve Chou)

She’s on wait lists for larger apartments, but only if it means staying where her heart, and home, are. With three personality-packed kids that seem super-well-adjusted and very happy despite tight confines, I completely understand why she wouldn’t want to take a chance on another neighborhood.

Community, friendship, and comfort

Life’s pretty complicated, but staying where you are only because you love the place, well, that seems like a simple choice to me.

If you’re considering moving from a place you’ve called home and felt passionate about for some time now, maybe you should listen to any niggling doubts you have. Community, friendship, comfort – these are not easily-found things. In fact, they ought to be downright cherished when you find them.

 

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Steffani Cameron

Steffani Cameron is a Victoria BC-based writer on a variety of topics. Here on the BuildDirect blog, she specializes in writing about smaller, urban spaces. How do you make the most of your smaller space? How do you decorate it to suit you? And how do you wage the war against clutter and win? This is Steff’s specialty.