A company trying to pair students with spare bedrooms in the West Kootenay so far has about 15 hosts registered, but is looking for more.
“We’ve been making out quite good,” says Christian Bertsch, a marketing intern with Happipad. “We’ve had a lot of community outreach in the Kootenays. This is good for an initial offering in a new region.”
But Bertsch says the supply of hosts does not meet the number of guests, which is up to 50 and growing. He says while their main focus was Selkirk College students in Nelson and Castlegar, they have also signed up hosts in Trail plus one in Grand Forks.
Four people moved in as of Aug. 15 and the rest are expected to arrive Sept. 1 or a bit later.
Bertsch says there are different reasons why someone might agree to be a host.
“It depends on the circumstances. As an elder, you would mainly want a companion, whereas if you have a family you would mainly want the income.”
The company started in 2017 but only recently began targeting the Kootenays.
Bertsch says while there is a limited supply of apartment rentals in the region, their research suggests 57 per cent of local homes have at least one unoccupied bedroom.
He says students are generally only looking for accommodation of up to eight months.
“If they can rent a room or basement, these students are happy to have a place to rest their heads as they continue their studies,” he says.
While the service is geared toward students, Bertsch said it is available to anyone interested in house-sharing.
Happipad conducts background checks on both hosts and guests and provides an online platform for them to connect. Hosts pay the company five per cent of the monthly rent.
Selkirk College has limited on-campus student housing options in Castlegar and Nelson, but those units are snapped up early in the application process.
Last fall, the provincial government approved funding for 148 extra units of housing that are currently in development at the Castlegar campus and Silver King campus in Nelson, but those two facilities are not slated to open until 2024.
The college says it has resources on its website to help connect students with landlords willing to take students, including a housing board that has a variety of options. It has given Happipad its endorsement.
“There are lots of people in the communities we serve that have an extra bedroom or two,” Rhonda Schmitz, the college’s director of student development, said in a news release.
“This app takes an approach based on matching compatible people and makes it much easier for folks to open up their homes. Our students come from so many interesting and amazing backgrounds, it’s a cool way for people to make a deeper connection with the college community.”