(The Canadian Press)
On most personal-finance reality shows, a family is forced to confront their financial mess and if they can tighten their belts and turn things around, they get rewarded with some cash to help get back on track.
“Million Dollar Neighbourhood,” which premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT on OWN Canada, is a little grander in scale.
It involves the budgetary woes of 100 families who are challenged to work together as a community to get their financial houses in order. The 10-episode, 10-week series tasks the families in the town of Aldergrove, B.C. — about an hour east of Vancouver — to raise their collective net worth by $1,000,000, an average of $10,000 per family.
If the families succeed, one will be voted as the most deserving and get a cheque for $100,000. There are also weekly $10,000 prizes up for grabs when the families meet their targets.
“There is a huge power in community, if you think about areas of life that are important like raising a kid, managing your career, getting healthy, whatever it is, you go to your friends and family for support,” says host Bruce Sellery in explaining the show’s concept.
“Community has this incredible power to provide support, ideas and accountability and yet we do not resource that power when it comes to money. We don’t talk about it, we don’t dream about it, we have absolutely no willingness to break that cultural taboo.”
Producers put out a call for communities to apply to star on the show and Aldergrove was a good fit because of the diversity of its residents and the real-life problems they were dealing with, Sellery says.
“Some personal-finance shows are really the disaster cases, the schadenfreude, the viewer watches and goes, ‘Oh thank God I’m not like that,'” he says.
“That’s not this show. Sure, there are people with really tough circumstances but there are also people with circumstances much like the people you went to school with, or live in your building, or down the street from you.
“They’re really relatable stories and there was a good diversity of those kinds of stories in the town.”
Aldergrove was also an interesting locale for the show given how residents there have watched the red hot real estate market send home values skyrocketing.
“Aldergrove is a commuter town for Vancouver so the real estate prices have really risen — although not to the same degree,” Sellery says, adding that some residents took on more house than they could afford, or spent far too much on renovating.
“One of the pitfalls a lot of people fall into is they take out consumer debt — high interest debt — for things that won’t increase their net worth, like spending $30,000 on credit cards to renovate your house. You’re not getting that money back, especially if you’re not moving, so there’s a real reality check for these families to say, ‘What can you actually afford?’ And who wants to hear that?”
In the first episode, the residents of Aldergrove raid their piggy backs as they look for money they didn’t realize they had and some find unexpected windfalls when experts reassess their past tax returns.
In future episodes, garage sales are organized, and residents are encouraged to save money by avoiding eating out, cutting back on driving and saving energy at home.
Tensions between neighbours start to simmer as the challenges get more difficult but Sellery says he’s the one who really faced a lot of animosity.
“I was not the most popular guy in the room, frequently, over the course of shooting, which I was fine with by the way.”