My Experience with Shared-Living in Tofino, BC

As I come to the end of my time living and working in Tofino, I have begun to reflect on my experience of living in a staff accommodation with (at times) up to 70 other people.

In Tofino, there is an extreme housing crisis (as with a lot of other places) and most people have precarious living situations, as homes that would normally be rented out are now vacation rentals, or second-homes for people who live out of town. This creates an environment where people have to find living accommodations with their job – making it difficult to separate work and life, as your landlords are also your employers. Because of this, all of the staff accommodations in Tofino are all a little different. One job I applied for the staff accommodation was in a house but you shared the room with 2 or 3 other people (and the rent amount was quite high) – but you were required to find a more permanent housing situation after 3 months, otherwise your rent would increase by $100/month for the same shared room. Other staff accoms are simply just a small trailer that you are required to share with someone else for a higher cost (upwards of $800/month).

The staff accommodation that we are living in is quite large compared to others, and has a reputation as a big party place. Within our accommodation there are 3 different options – a shared dorm room, a nicer shared cabin (with your own bathroom and small kitchenette), or a shed (your own private shed – like actual garden shed – with lots of storage, a double bed, and a couch. Everyone starts out in a dorm and then you can move into the other two options as your seniority increases. Each option has a different price, depending on what you choose. However, the biggest upside to our accommodation is that if you fulfill your entire contract you get about $200 back per month that you paid for rent – which is a sweet bonus at the end of your contract.

However, keeping all this in mind, living in a staff accommodation requires you to be comfortable living in entirely shared spaces and sharing things you might not be accustomed to sharing – for example, bathrooms, kitchen, dishes and cutlery, lounge area, showers, you name it. So with this information, I am going to list the pros and cons that I have come up with living in this sort of shared accommodation:

Pros:

  • You always have friends around – you are never alone if you don’t want to be!
  • Organized activities such as themed parties, mafia nights, clothing swaps, art nights, movie nights
  • Surf lockers and an outdoor shower for after a long surf
  • Communal surfboards and bikes
  • Cheap rent! And a rent return program
  • Group BBQ’s and staff parties
  • “Free” utilities and Wi-Fi
  • Great friends

Cons:

  • You share your spaces with 70 people – hard to have privacy
  • There tends to be always parties – so it can be loud and overwhelming if you’re not into that kinda stuff
  • Your friends leave and you have to make new ones…
  • Your roommates may not clean up after themselves…

However, in my experience the pros definitely outweigh the cons. You are essentially living in a hostel with so many different types of people coming and going. It has given me a new appreciation for things such as a clean kitchen, but it has also been nice to always have people around – especially after the last 2 years of isolation and separation due to COVID-19.

And as a last little note from the sustainability student in me, shared living like this is really good for the environment as living in this type set-up means people can share appliances, carpool or walk to work, and reduce overall energy use. Shared living spaces help remove useless space.

So as much as shared living has definitely tested my patience numerous times over the last 11 months, I think it is something that everyone should experience at least once. It provides a community that everyone feels welcome in, it reduces the carbon footprint of your living situation, and provides you with unique friendships. If you have any questions or want more of an insight of my experience in shared living in Tofino, please reach out by commenting on this post or messaging me directly on Instagram.

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