Looking for a roomie? This Kelowna company is bridging a generational divide - InfoNews

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Looking for a roomie? This Kelowna company is bridging a generational divide

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August 19, 2019 - 6:30 PM

KELOWNA - Kelowna’s housing availability and affordability problems are long and storied, so it makes sense that some local engineers saw an opportunity to create a business that would address them.

They named it Happipad and as it started to head toward its initial aim, it started making headway in solving another problem that’s happening across Canada. It’s dealing with social isolation among two of the biggest population groups, seniors and students.

The Kelowna-based company offers roommate matchmaking through its website. On it, people establish connections by creating personal profiles and uploading pictures of rooms available, like Airbnb and dating websites.

It’s not just matching 20-somethings or 50-somethings.

“Happipad was designed as a system to connect intergenerational households,” co-founder and CEO Cailin Libby said.

“We looked at population trends in Canada, and found that… young adults or the millennial population was struggling with affordability and we saw the boomer population moving into retirement and they have homes with space not being used efficiently.”

So the question was “how can these people get together and make this work?”

They researched the project in Kelowna in 2017 and Libby said their findings offered the validation needed to learn how intergenerational placements could work.

Then, in 2018, the pilot project began.

“We had 15 homes in our pilot program and had approximately 23 students, some hosts had several students who would (move-in),” he said. “Some students would (move-in) for a short time some would stay for eight-plus months.”

Immediately they found that age wasn’t the factor that dictated compatibility.

“Many of our students loved the homes provided, compared to typical housing with other students,” Libby said. “These homes were quieter, more comfortable. One student, for example, came here from Vancouver and said it was the best housing upgrade she ever had.” 

And for the people providing the housing, it’s offering some companionship where there was once none.

If it sounds like a perfect fit, Libby said that’s been the case at times. There have also been some clashes.

“We have had some conflicts come up, mostly compatibility,” he said. “In some cases, students and the hosts are just different people — not every relationship works.”

That’s taught a bit about what makes an ideal fit and allowed Happipad to hone its personality assessment.

“We look at dietary and learning habits, noise levels and general interests,” he said.

“If people share an interest, like cooking and church that can contribute to compatibility.”

The company also checks if applicants have a record of criminal or at-risk behaviours in 110,000 databases in 240 countries. Professional interventions, such as counselling services, are provided by the company when conflicts need help being resolved.

Since the pilot program ended the reach of Happipad has expanded and demand for the service has grown.

It’s not surprising to Libby.

“We listened to people and understood what the problems were and asked, how can we help the person solve this problem?” he said. “I'm not surprised, but I’m incredibly inspired. The transformation with some of our clients has been amazing.”

In some households, older residents were dealing with disorganization and they were shy and timid.

Now, he said, even after a few months “there’s whole new energy.”

“They’re more vibrant as a person and their eyes are glowing,” he said.

It’s taught Libby an important lesson.

“You can’t approach people to address social isolation issues,”  he said. “But we found a roundabout way to address it more directly.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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