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Happipad hopes spare bedrooms can help housing crunch

A BC company expanding to the Kootenays is hoping to tap the region’s spare bedrooms to find accommodation for nearly 100 Selkirk College students this fall.

Happipad provides an online platform for matching people seeking rentals with people willing to share their homes.

Marketing intern Christian Bertsch told Castlegar city council this week their mission is to find places for people to live, particularly those coming here to attend school.

Bertsch explained that under Happipad’s homesharing platform, hosts and renters create online profiles. They communicate with each other, and if they like what they see, they can do an interview and then sign a rental contract through the company.

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Happipad was founded in Kelowna in 2017. Since then it has expanded to other parts of BC as well as Ontario and Manitoba. Bertsch said they are just getting started in the Kootenays and have a partnership with Selkirk College, which has over 40 students in Castlegar enrolled this fall who didn’t make the cut for on-campus housing. In Nelson, there are over 50 in the same situation.

According to the company’s research, 55 per cent of homes in Nelson and 57 per cent of those in Castlegar have empty bedrooms. They believe “unlocking the new rental supply” could go a long ways to addressing the local housing crunch.

Although college students are their initial market, Bertsch said the service is available to everyone. So far he says there has been a lot of interest and “quite a few” potential tenants have already signed up, but they need more hosts.

“It’s quite difficult to get people to open their homes,” he said, but added that Happipad offers vetting of both sides to ensure compatibility. By creating an account, potential hosts can see who uses the service before listing their home or room.

The company conducts background checks and provides monthly check-ins and damage support. Payments are also made through them so hosts are guaranteed to get their money.

Hosts pay Happipad five per cent of their monthly rent while renters pay a one-time $20 screening fee, although they can get the same amount off their first month’s rent or to put toward the screening fee through a deals app.

Most rentals are four to 12 months, and room rates tend to be anywhere from 20 to 50 per cent cheaper than apartments, Bertsch said.

He said they are hoping to have more hosts signed up by mid-August so they can be “full force” in time for school resuming in September.

(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said hosts pay a matching fee. However, the company is waiving that fee for the foreseeable future.)

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