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NATIONAL’s work with Robert Barnard and the team at YouthfulCities continues to inspire my thinking and interest in two converging forces: recognizing the needs and importance of youth in shaping our cities at a time when the Canadian population is more urban than ever before.

The 2018 YouthfulCities Index identifies housing and affordability as critical issues for policy makers when considering where the next generation will locate, live and work in the years ahead.

YouthfulCities is the driving force behind an exciting concept called 30Labs — a “think and do tank” that brings together 30 youth in cities across the country to look for solutions to problems where they have a vested interest. A recent 30Lab in Vancouver looked at housing and affordability, and one of the teams created a concept built on the idea of multigenerational living called Empty Nests.

Metro Vancouver planners estimate there are 800,000 spare bedrooms in Vancouver — the majority in homes owned by older adults with a desire to age in place but who struggle to keep up with rising property taxes and maintenance costs.

Empty Nests seeks to bring together different generations for cohabitation. The idea is to create a secure and trustworthy platform where homeowners open up spare bedrooms in their home so youth can access a place to live at an affordable price. Youth would pay a lower rent in return for providing labour and other support for their older landlords/homeowners. The end goal is both youth and older adults feel more housing-secure and less socially isolated — developing community connections across age and encouraging a sharing of knowledge, labour and experience.

The team (here are the bright lights who developed the concept) was inspired by examples of multigenerational housing projects from around the world, including those in the Netherlands, Germany, France, UK and USA.

It’s early days for Empty Nests as the team looks for funding and support. However, finding affordable housing in expensive cities is a creative idea worth the consideration of companies like NATIONAL and others who are looking for the next generation of leaders and workers.

——— Paul Welsh is a former Managing Partne at NATIONAL Public Relations