Print Edition: October 3, 2012
Its long hallways are lined with the artwork of its artistic and friendly residents, lending to a strong sense of community and family.
The Atangard Community Project was developed three years ago by a group of young workers and students, who found that living on their own was a difficult and expensive experience.
Coming together, they took over the lease to the Fraser Valley Inn, a grungy and unmaintained hotel with a bad reputation. After extensive cleaning and renovations, the hotel was transformed into an artistic home for working and studying young people between the ages of 19 and 35. Dirty carpets were replaced with dark hardwood, walls were lined with artwork and photos and rooms became a blank canvas for inhabitants to express themselves and their tastes.
Three years later, Atangard has become home to 24 residents sharing 19 bedrooms, a TV room and a communal dining room with attached kitchen. Each resident is expected to pitch in on chores and plan two communal dinners a month.
Atangard focuses on fostering a feeling of community, and this means that there is constantly something going on. Resident and coordinator Levi Binder described Atangard as a “time suck,” since there is always something intriguing grabbing residents’ attention the minute they leave their rooms.
Resident and coordinator Lia Bishop agreed. “Everyone brings in something different and something is going on all the time,” she said.
Privacy seems like it would be a non-existent factor when living in a community, but there are still rules to allow residents to get solitude when they want it. Residents are respectful of doors, and if a door is closed it typically means either a resident is out for the day or doesn’t want to be disturbed.
This unspoken agreement depends on a level of trust; doors may be closed, but they are rarely ever locked at Atangard.
Becoming a resident is similar to applying for a job. There is an intensive screening process which determines if the candidate is suitable for the community living.
“Community living is not for everyone,” Binder said. “There has to be respect for the community and each other.”
Residents take pride in the cleaning up of the downtown core, the environment and the Abbotsford community itself; new residents should have this same level of respect not just for Atangard, but for Abbotsford and each other.
The costs associated with living at Atangard range from $350 to $500 per room, which includes a private bathroom and a $30 staples fee paid every three months, which goes toward community supplies such as flour, sugar, and dishwasher soap. Income is managed by the Board of Directors and is discussed at monthly house meetings.
It might be a little different than other living situations, but Binder said it allows residents to be part of a respectful—and affordable—community.