Recently, there's been a lot of talk about living in group houses. By definition, they aren't anything new or complicated by any means. These co-living arrangements are just that - a group of people live together under one roof. Like geodes, they come in different arrangements and sizes, and there's something out there for everyone.
Group living arrangements can be totally amazing, even transformative. I think they provide the best opportunity to make those lifelong friendships you can only have by living intimately together.
What worries me is that I'm seeing a growing reverance for being in specific co-living arrangements, especially in the gen-z demographic. What I mean is this: without pointing names, we can see a social media trend where people publicly share and humble brag about being in a name brand house.
This is worrying because it detracts from what group houses are really meant for. There is nothing special about the mere fact of being in a specific group house. It's a construct formed from having a bunch of people living together under one roof. It's a special experience because of the ideas you learn and the friends you meet and the memories you make, not because it's a shiny badge that should be flaunted around.
A house that focuses on clout and external validation tends to set a tone that makes it difficult to be authentic and organic. If you are surrounded by people who are in the place just so they can say they have been there, you most likely won't be able to get the level and type of interaction that you'd get with people who want to live, learn, and share alongside you.
What makes a house is the people within it. If people aren't coming for the experience, then it won't manifest within the house.
To be clear, I am in no way trying to gate-keep the awesome opportunity of group houses. I hope everyone gets to do them, but it should be a truly safe, community oriented experience that is honest with its values and purpose.
When finding housemates, I find that using The Damn Test to be a helpful litmus test on whether I align with someone and would like to live with them.
Ok, so being in a good house is paramount to having a good experience. How do I make sure I'm in the right house? And if I find the right house, how can I be accepted to join as a resident?
Many friends from Waterloo reached out to me with the same questions, and it seems that there are two main problems here:
To find out about houses, you have to be either well connected or lucky. I wasn't well connected when I found about School 2.0: I heard about it by chance from a hackathon mailing list, and I only joined the hackathon after a stranger cold-emailed me about the opportunity in the first place (thanks Avery!).
There's also an element of luck involved when you try to get a spot in a house, since interviews can only sample a small part of what someone is like, and sometimes the house is already full by the time you hear about it. To be honest, there aren't many group houses at all in Canada at the moment.
The trick to guarantee that you are in your favorite house is actually to start one. Currently it seems that there is much more demand than supply - if you want to join a house and can't, then surely there are so so many others who feel the same. Just this past month, 6 people reached out to me, asking me about any upcoming group living arrangements. If there's enough interest, I'm thinking of building something to connect people to form houses in Canada. Feel free to drop me a message if you'd like to see something like this.
If you're looking for existing houses to live in or draw inspiration from, I've put together an archive of the good houses I know of, you can check it out here.