Ch 25: Helping Locally and Globally · home · Step 10: Saving by Spending · Step 4: Cutting Costs

Third Space: A Creative Solution to Housing Costs

Where I live, housing (rent or ownership) costs are among the highest in the world. Some of us feel compelled to live here anyway. In my case, it’s so that my son has access to various supports and services. When he ages out of those, we’ll likely move to a cheapo part of the world.

In the meantime, we’re in a gorgeous bachelor suite that we love, paying a delightfully modest amount in rent -just like in every other home of our last seven years. This allows us to live well, invest, and share.

To pull this off, we’ve always relied on the use of “third spaces” – those shared rooms that give us access to another environment and additional people.

It’s a space [distinct from work or home] where people meet to unwind, discuss and talk about things that matter to them, their neighbourhood and their community, where they can let down their guard, relax, be themselves, develop new friendships and deepen existing ones.

Many coffee shops serve this need, but other spaces do as well: libraries, church meeting rooms, a revived Elks Lodge, your local cowork facility, a common room in a strata complex, a community gym.

These can be accessed for $0-$30 per use, depending on the details. I consider the use of third spaces almost part of my “shelter” costs. I need to contribute something to them so they can stay open, but it works out to less than market housing costs, while bringing us many more benefits than a larger home would.

One of my third spaces is quite a few kilometers away -boat rides are involved. We use it approximately 42 days out of every year, for larger family gatherings. It’s the small home of one relative. Daily, my sister Paula visits it. The two of them have coffee together, chat, maybe sing. On breaks from our regular life, my son and I add ourselves to the living room. Sometimes, additional people -other relatives; neighbours- get comfy there too. I contribute the internet fees, a third of the dishwashing, and some other tasks.

Access to this space means the rest of us can live in even smaller dwellings -even just one open room for 1-2 people. It allows us to not own a large place each. We’ve essentially agreed on this one as the meeting/communal option.

In our current town, on the other hand, I mostly use two different coffee shops. I choose one or the other according to my day’s need. As a teen, my son has additional third spaces: multiple community spaces available to him without charge.

Having a small home inspires us to get out into our third spaces more, which I think is really positive. When I recognize that I don’t have to stay inside my house 24/7 -that I’m free to leave, free to meet other people, free to enjoy additional spaces- I can dramatically reduce my housing costs, while also benefiting very much from my extra “rooms” near and far.

Do you have anything that serves as a third space? Does it allow you to reduce what you need in a private home? How much money do you feel compelled to contribute to it?

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