More people in transition using Kelowna-based room rental app

FILE PHOTO - Cailan Libby is the CEO of, a venture focused on helping renters and landlords connect, founded in the Central Okanagan with its low-vacancy rental housing market.
FILE PHOTO - Cailan Libby is the CEO of, a venture focused on helping renters and landlords connect, founded in the Central Okanagan with its low-vacancy rental housing market.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/UBC Okanagan

Kelowna-based Happipad’s rental pool dried up in March, 2020 as students moved their learning online and renters were cautious about COVID-19.

Now, the online platform — that connects renters with rooms available to address affordable housing needs — says the people using its service has shifted amid the pandemic.

“When the pandemic first hit, as you can imagine since our entire business model is putting people together in a shared space, we suffered. We lost a lot of contracts, there were a lot of people moving out all of a sudden, especially with our students. Our biggest demographic for renters on the guest side were international students and students who were coming from outside of town,” said Amanda Aube, manager of operations with Happipad.

READ MORE: House prices, rent beyond reach of many residents in Central Okanagan: report

Contracts dropped by half with the company, so they shifted and began looking at ways to address housing challenges after the pandemic ends.

“It’s obvious that housing is going to be a big issue, but affordability, social isolation, what are the seniors in our communities going to do? They’re already isolated,” she said.

As people begin to feel more comfortable, business is picking up again at Happipad. The company will be using a $250,000 grant from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to expand its web-based companion housing platform. With partners across B.C. and Alberta, it is launching several companion housing pilot programs and educational workshops that benefit vulnerable population segments including seniors, students, recent immigrants and newcomers.

While students are returning to the platform, Happipad is also seeing young working professionals that are considering shared accommodation compared to living alone as it’s more affordable, Aube said.

As it also offers shorter term contracts, the platform has seen an increase in interest from people selling their homes and needing a temporary place to stay, or those who are staying with families that need their own space or adults that are on the move, she said.

“It’s always been a mix but it has shifted to people who don’t really know where to go next,” she said.

According to a Regional District of Central Okanagan report released in January, single renters are spending more than 30% of their income for apartments in the region.

“Thirty percent of respondents in the report indicated their housing was not affordable, while 62% indicated they were very concerned with the cost of homeownership, and 56% were very concerned with the cost of renting. When asked to rate which groups have difficulties finding housing, respondents thought low-income households had a very difficult time finding affordable housing in the region,” the report reads.

Affordable housing generally means the cost of housing does not exceed 30% of a person’s gross income.

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