Monogamy? In This Economy?!
Musings on polyamory's potential to solve the housing crisis.
The Squeeze is a monthly column that features tips and tricks for surviving the rising cost of living. Each month, Erin dissects lifestyle and cultural changes that have been popularized during the global economic squeeze.
Since moving from Toronto to Vancouver in 2021, I haven’t been able to open a dating app without seeing “ethically-non monogamous” at least once. I rarely saw this pre-pandemic or before coming out West. While I found Toronto to be unbearably rigid and fixated upon status, whether it be relationship or financial, West Coasters seemed to know the secret to designing an easier and more detached lifestyle in all aspects. Cliche? Definitely. But there’s something about being surrounded by mountains, ocean air, and easy access to pseudo-legal psychedelics that opens your mind to new experiences.
Although I wasn’t sure if the world of multiple partnerships was right for me, it wasn’t until I saw an ad for an event titled “Monogamy? In this economy?!” that I’d never considered having multiple partners as the answer to the ever-increasing housing affordability crisis. I couldn’t help but wonder… In the absence of rich parents, is having multiple partners now the only way to afford a mortgage these days?
It wasn’t long ago that families with two and a half children could buy a house on a single income. These days, you’ll be pressed to find any family home below $2 million in Vancouver that isn’t a dilapidated teardown. While West Coasters are generally more open to unconventional lifestyles, like those who have fully embraced van life, nothing kills the good vibes quite like being faced with paying $900 a month to rent a cot in a living room.
As someone who had been a victim of the “singles tax” for years, combining the buying power of three or more incomes started to sound more appealing, if not a necessity. I knew my dream of not lining the pockets of landlords for the rest of my life might require some creative problem-solving, so I told Siri to remind me to attend the “Polyamory Event” on Sunday.
Ethical non-monogamy (ENM) is on the rise post-pandemic. Maybe we came face-to-face with our mortality for the first time and realized life is short. Or too many couples spent two years locked with their partners in a one-bedroom apartment. An increase in apps geared to unconventional dating, like Feeld, has made finding others who practice ENM as easy as ordering from DoorDash. Like all relationships, ENM comes with as many benefits as it does challenges, but things get more complicated when it comes to cohabitating with multiple legally unwed partners.
Moses Striking the Rock by Abraham Bloemaert (Netherlandish, Gorinchem 1566–1651 Utrecht), 1596. Painting courtesy of The Met Collection.
As someone who has limited experience with both non-monogamy and mortgages, I didn’t realize how challenging purchasing a home between multiple individuals who are not legally married can be - and gets even messier if you separate. Common-law couples are still not afforded the same rights and benefits as those who are legally wed, which seems like a pretty outdated capitalist scam in 2023.
I hoped the speakers at “Monogamy? In this Economy” would have the answers. As soon as the first speaker introduced himself with, “This idea came to me at Burning Man” I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. The “idea” was a company that helps those in non-traditional partnerships or living situations navigate the legally rigid and outdated path to homeownership. While the Zoom call itself was attended by about a dozen polycules, the co-buying services are geared to all kinds of non-traditional groups, including unwed couples, family members, and even friends hoping to purchase a home together.
There’s even a matching tool to help you find others to co-buy with and a credit union based in Vancouver has recently started offering the first-of-its-kind co-buying mortgage. The thought that polyamorous living situations could help disrupt the housing marketing seemed like the ultimate “fuck you” to a system that mostly aligns with traditional legal rights and values tied to marriage
I left the Zoom call unconvinced that a polyamorous living situation was right for me. While I have massive respect for those who pursue the non-monog life, I have enough trouble managing even one relationship under one roof. However, it turns out my distaste for traditional marriage might not sentence me to rental prison forever. The thought of owning a 30-something sorority/frat style house with my closest friends started to sound less like a sitcom and more like an ideal scenario. The majority of us already live with roommates, so why not say “I do” to signing a mortgage with the homies and kicking our landlords to the curb?
If society is becoming more open-minded around relationships, then why are the rules around homeownership still far behind? For those of us who pursue a less traditional life, it might be time to start getting as unconventional with the path to homeownership as we are with our love lives.