Tech tackles high rents

Happipad staff Winnie Pun, and founders Cailan Libby and Dr. Ken Chau connect generations

Older owners house the next generation

Technology alone can’t solve every problem, but sometimes it sure helps. Looking to address housing affordability, UBC engineering student Cailan Libby and professor Dr. Ken Chau turned to an unconventional solution that was more personal and sustainable than traditional renting— and Happipad was born.

“Our concept was to look at a renter’s personality and unique needs to find them a great place to live,” says Cailan. “In 2016, Kelowna, for the first time, had more 65-plus residents than those 19-and-under. We saw that we could house the entire post-secondary population (about 17,000) twice over by using the spare bedrooms in the single-family homes.”

This spring, the two-year-old company launched IGEN, a pilot home-sharing program. Their short-term goal is to house at least 10 percent of the post-secondary population and young workforce with inter-generational living arrangements. The platform uses a screening process to create matches while addressing barriers of trust, security and support.

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To date, there are eight confirmed hosts for more than 80 renter applicants. Ideally, hosts are semi-retired or retired individuals or couples in owned, single-family homes with a vacant spare bedroom. Cailan says census data shows more than 10,000 widows or widowers in the community.

“It’s not room and board. The renter is contributing toward the household.” He experienced similar living arrangements during a year in New Zealand. “Maybe the host needs help with gardening or being driven. In return, a young person gets more affordable rent.”

Moving from Ontario, Lasoi Ketere found a warm welcome to Kelowna when the team matched her with a rental spot.

For matches, Happipad assists in creating home-sharing rules — such as cleaning schedules, quiet times, rules for visitors, personal use of items and areas of the house. Once the arrangement has started, there’s ongoing support like facilitating rent payments and assisting in resolving concerns.

“Engineering is using innovative thinking to solve complex problems and that’s ultimately what this is — a sustainable solution for a serious social-economic issue,” says Cailan. “We want to create a healthy and sustainable system for aging in place. Seniors receive help with their cost of living and aid in things around the house while creating more affordable housing. And ultimately, happy homes create a better community.”

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