Local Resident Rallies for Shared Housing

For those not wishing to live alone, shared housing offers an alternative rich with benefits.


Publié le 7 mars 2017

Ormstown’s Don Rosenbaum and his wife, Debbie Bourget.

©Erika Rosenbaum

A teacher for over thirty years, Don Rosenbaum became an advocate for shared housing when he purchased his home in Ormstown many years ago.

Shared housing provides a way for seniors to remain independent, and to reduce the financial, physical and social loss that often accompanies aging. Don Rosenbaum

“I wasn’t sure I could afford to manage it on my income, and another couple, close friends, moved in with us for several years. That was the beginning,” explains Rosenbaum. While he is now retired, Rosenbaum’s enthusiasm for shared housing has pushed him to pursue his project within the Chateauguay Valley community. He cites the importance of shared living for both single mothers and the elderly in particular—especially those that suddenly find themselves alone.

According to an article prepared by Rosenbaum, “Shared housing (or home sharing) is defined as a long-term living arrangement in which two or more unrelated people share a house or an apartment. Each person has their own space, a bedroom and sometimes additional rooms, with housemates sharing common areas such as the kitchen. It is a situation that is especially appealing to seniors, who once left on their own, often face the painful decision of either moving into a retirement home, or living alone in a home that may be too large and expensive for them to maintain.” Rosenbaum, who previously served as both the president of the Association of Family Life Educators of Quebec and as a facilitator with the Partnership for School Improvement, explains further. “Shared housing provides a way for seniors to remain independent, and to reduce the financial, physical and social loss that often accompanies aging.”

While shared housing sounds like a simple enough proposal, Rosenbaum has encountered some difficulty in realizing his idea within the municipality of Ormstown. Rosenbaum was first faced with these restrictions when he and his wife, Debbie Bourget, considered converting the 45-foot barn in their backyard into an apartment for their in-laws. When they inquired after a permit, their request was denied. Rosenbaum is hoping that the MRC’s Social Development Plan, released in 2017, will change that—especially given that one facet of it is geared towards housing in particular, although it does not presently allow for changes to the existing by-laws. As for some of the obstacles that Rosenbaum’s proposal faces? “Many of our municipalities have regulations and by-laws which limit or prohibit the possibility of shared housing. In Ormstown, for example, households are limited to just two ‘boarders’, and there is currently no possibility of converting an existing outbuilding into a cottage or guest house. Additionally, references to ‘intergenerational housing’ are generally limited to mean family members, typically a grandparent living with the family.”

Recently, Rosenbaum was met with an enthusiastic response from one council woman in particular, who encouraged the Ormstown resident’s endeavours. In fact, she had this to say about the idea: “Interdependence is so important economically and socially and will fill the gap that used to be filled by so many volunteers that are on the decline and the fact that families today are much smaller and live farther apart.”

Shared housing is definitely a possibility within the local community. “In order for this to become an option for folks, especially single mothers and seniors, two things are needed: some loosening up of current housing regulations and some way to raise awareness about this idea, and to connect people who might be interested,” states Rosenbaum.

The municipality of Ormstown met on March 6th—Rosenbaum looks forward to hearing their collective thoughts on his shared housing proposal. For more information, consult https://www.facebook.com/groups/1764464193803630/.