Unlocked: An inside look at where 20 young Canadians live today

Two international students at UBC in Vancouver live in a camper van. A young family in rural Saskatchewan bought an affordable but very old farmhouse to fix up. A woman in Calgary is living in that city’s first shipping container laneway home.

Young Canadians across the country are getting creative when it comes to housing. 

These stories, and 11 more, are at the heart of Unlocked, a new personal storytelling series by gen Zers and millennials across Canada in collaboration with CBC Creator Network. Forty-two storytellers from B.C. to Nova Scotia produced short films and personal essays, each offering an intimate, first-person look at their generation’s housing situation. 

The series comes at a time when many Canadians are grappling with a tightening rental market, and rising housing prices. 

In the last decade, Canada has been losing affordable rental units, those available to individuals making $30,000 a year or less, far faster than new ones are being built, a recent CBC Fifth Estate investigation found

And in last week’s new federal budget, dubbed the “housing budget,” the government announced several measures they promise will cool the Canada’s red-hot housing market. Some aren’t so sure. “There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors here,” said David Hulchanski, a housing and community development professor at the University of Toronto, told CBC News

Meanwhile, young Canadians, gen Zers and millennials are still in that housing pinch. But just how bad is it for young adults finding places to live within their means? What challenges do they face? Will they ever own a home? Maybe they already do, or don’t want to. These questions were at the heart of the personal stories in Unlocked. 

Check out all the Unlocked projects below.


VIDEO: 3 roommates, 2 cats, no privacy: A gen Zers affordable housing solution in Winnipeg 

Winnipeg filmmaker Samantha Don, second from left, discovered that finding affordable housing today means living with roommates. Don lives with her partner Luke, left, her sister Ally Don, and her boyfriend, Ryan Luke (in glasses). (Alexander Decebal-Cuza)

VIDEO: Camper van a reasonable alternative to sky-high Vancouver housing prices, say two international students 

A new documentary highlights two international students at the University of British Columbia, who have chosen to live in an RV. Others are forced into similar circumstances. (Van City)

VIDEO: Then and now: Just how affordable are Montreal apartments?

In Eve Parker Finley’s first video for the Creator Network, she looks at old classified ads to see what apartments used to cost in the ‘90s, ‘00s and ‘10s. (CBC)

VIDEO: Meet a B.C. nomad living offthe grid on a solar-powered catamaran

Simon Stiles lives on a solar-powered catamaran with his pitbull Honey. (Simon Stiles/CBC)

VIDEO: The housing that rap built: How growing up in Ottawa community housing influenced rapper Lindasson 

Shymar Brewster, who goes by the moniker ‘Lindasson,’ grew up in Caldwell in Ottawa’s west end. The hip-hop artist says the community built him into the performer he is today. (Jean-Jacques Ngandu)

VIDEO: How I made my dream home a reality as a 24-year-old single woman in Dartmouth

Claire Fraser is a photographer and videographer who lives in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. (Halley Davies)

VIDEO: From 40K in debt to condo owner: Advice from a millennial who dug themself out

Winnipegger Maribeth Tabanera got their finances in order and made a plan to chip away at a debt they accumulated over years. They made a few significant changes to how they spent and saved money. (Quan Luong)

ESSAY: The pros and cons of moving to small-town Nova Scotia during the pandemic

Drolet moved to Wolfville in September, 2020. (Gabrielle Drolet for CBC)

VIDEO: From trash to treasure: Young couple restores abandoned Saskatchewan farmhouse  

One day Brad Parker found a handwritten note stuck in the door. It was from a grandchild of the original property owner, Alfred Cram. (Jenalene Antony)

VIDEO: A sea can to call home: Laneway home the first of its kind in Calgary

Laurenee Mercier now wants to build a c-can home of her own one day. (Kylee Pedersen/CBC)

VIDEO: ‘I asked [owner] if he was transphobic and he said yes’: Trans renter says safety is key to good housing

Kian James (they/them) is a recent university graduate and renter in Regina, Sask. who’s been discriminated against by previous landlords because they identify as non-binary/ transgender. (Louise BigEagle/For CBC Creator Network)

AUDIO ESSAY: Why settling into our first home felt more like settling

Kevin Shaw says though he and his husband Ben Jaremko were grateful to be able to buy their first home, paying $440,000 for a stacked condo in Ottawa’s east end was disheartening. (Submitted by Kevin Shaw)

VIDEO: Young and homeless in Toronto: Filmmaker sheds light on housing crisis

Documentary filmmaker Jason Cipparrone is pictured in Toronto on Jun. 2, 2021. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)


Unlocked: Housing stories by young Canadians is a national storytelling series by the CBC Creator Network. These personal stories, produced primarily by gen Zers and millennials, reveal the challenges young Canadians face finding affordable housing, their creative solutions and their hopes for the future. Check out the website here.

(Adam Myatt for CBC)

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