Think TOMS Shoes, but for Home Sweet Homes

Do you own a pair of TOMS shoes? If not, you have seriously missed out on the phenomenon of shoe shopping (and buying) that is totally justifiable. TOMS shoe brand took the buy-one-get-one philosophy to the next level. They made shoe buying an aspect of good karma and charity, and the world responded by the closetful. TOMS is dubbed the “one-for-one company,” and with good reason. For every product purchased, TOMS helps a person in need. Specifically, the website claims that “through your purchases, TOMS helps provide shoes, sight, water, safe birth, and bullying prevention services to help people in need.”


After TOMS took consumerism and turned it into something that mattered, other brands were quick to try and jump on board with their own one–for-one models. Skechers even went so far as to mimic the signature TOMS shoe to a tee, with a “BOBS” label on the back instead. Yeah, Skechers. We see you. Other companies, however, took the TOMS concept and applied it to their own unique industry or cause – even the real estate market was touched.

WH2World Housing is like TOMS shoes, but for housing. In fact, World Housing is not even afraid to admit that TOMS shoes is the inspiration behind their strikingly similar take on charity. In The New Yorker, Barry Newman highlights Pete Dupuis’ excitement after he happened to sit next to TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie:

“The first thing Pete Dupuis asked his wife and daughter after he got home to Vancouver one evening in October, 2010 was: Do you know about TOMS? Dupuis, who was in a down year of a thirty-year career selling condominiums, had never heard of TOMS, the shoe brand, before his flight from Los Angeles, but he’d gotten an earful about it from the hipster type who happened to sit next to him. The hipster was Blake Mycoskie, who founded TOMS, in 2006, on a promise to give away a pair of shoes to one of the world’s insufficiently shoed for each pair of shoes it sold.”

After his chance encounter, Dupuis came home feeling inspired, and was pleased to find that even his own family had TOMS shoes in their closets. His entrepreneurial spirit was brimming with ideas for the industry he knew so well: housing. And so World Housing was born.

Based in Vancouver, World Housing builds a $3,000 third-world shelter every time a luxury apartment is bought at one of their first-world properties. As of 2014, World Housing was working in coordination with Westbank, which developed properties such as the Beach and Howe Tower in Vancouver.

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There is an overwhelming need for housing for people in developing countries, with many people subject to practically non-existent and definitely appalling living conditions. World Housing describes their vision as a “home for everyone,” which Dupuis expands on when talking to NY Daily News about Phnom Penh, one of the locations they have helped:

“They make their homes there, they make their livings there, and they may never leave there. Providing them with a roof over their head can be life-changing.”

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 11.43.20 AM.pngToday, the World Housing website reports that the non-profit has gifted 360 homes and housed more than 1,800 people in 24 communities. When they launched, World Housing was the first one-for-one real estate model. Their success came quick, and now they have evolved to become a registered charity, so even people who aren’t in the market for Vancouver housing can donate to their cause.

The concept does more than provide housing for those in need – it also brings jobs. World Housing makes it a point to partner with local manufacturers to create their dwellings. While partnering with World Housing on the home front can be costly, World Housing tries to make up for the loss by being vocal about each particpating builder’s dedication to helping the less fortunate. Duipis specifically says:

“We want to make sure if they’re willing to do good work on the other side of the globe, they’re doing good work at home, too.”

While the one-for-one model has been done before, it never really gets old. I mean, buying anything naturally comes with a little bit of buyer’s remorse, and buying a house is certainly no exception. What better way to combat buyer’s remorse than pairing whatever you’re buying with a bit of charity? If I had gone through World Housing, perhaps my just-bought-a-house panic would have been more peaceful and less like I was having an asthma attack.

In all seriousness, the one-for-one movement makes charity easy and cool, which is definitely the way to the modern pocket. People need more ways to give back than by simply donating, and charities such as World Housing makes it feel like you are giving something tangible to those in need. What’s not to love about that?

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