If you haven’t heard of it, Happipad is a web-platform where you can list rooms and suites, or look for them. Yes, those services are available through sites like Facebook or Craigslist, or even Airbnb and Vrbo, but Happipad is a bit different. (Keep reading and you’ll get my summary.)

The platform is a self-described “social purpose organization” that was founded in 2017 by a UBC student-professor team, with the goal of tackling housing affordability and social isolation. It’s also designed to facilitate what Happipad calls, “companion-housing”, for folks who might otherwise be living alone without the type of community that would make their world a little brighter. This could be a senior living in their home with room to spare, or a newcomer to Canada looking to find community on the Sunshine Coast.

While the online platform (www.happipad.com) might resemble something like Airbnb at first glance, it’s actually more like a home or work exchange platform. With Happipad, you start by making a profile, your profile is vetted and screened, and then you can contact others who have done the same. Users are able to connect with people based on needs, expectations and preferences, whether you are looking for a room or offering a space in your home.
Notably, Happipad’s website says that it has, “one of the most comprehensive screening processes in the rental industry with mandatory identity verification and background screening checks.” In fact, you can also become an RCMP-verified host as part of your profile.

In terms of the types of listings themselves, from the beginning, Happipad was designed to comply with municipal bylaws (unlike Airbnb).“Landlords” with listings on Happipad must live in the same home (or on the same property) as the room or suite they are renting. (A fact that also distinguishes the platform from a site like Airbnb). These listings, the website explains, can be for bedrooms or “in-law suites.” As well, Happipad guests – aka. renters – must get access to a kitchen, a private or shared bathroom, and access to common areas. In theory, all of these features encourage more medium to long-term housing versus vacationers or weekenders, and Happipad says you must rent your room or suite for a minimum of one month to be a host.

A bit more about the fine print on Happidad: their web platform handles rental contracts, facilitates rent payments, and supports users with conflict resolution services if necessary. It’s free to register and post a property on Happipad (contact the Resource Centre if you need some help signing up!). There is a one-time placement fee of $50 for each guest a host rents to, and Happipad collects 5% of the monthly rent. It’s up to you to decide if this is a fair exchange of fees for services!

I would argue that the differences – or value-added that comes from using this platform to list rental options – could be enough incentive to give folks on the fence about renting suites in their homes or on their property the confidence to do so, consequently adding much needed available medium to long-term housing-stock to our community. The vetting and security checks offered by Happidad may also give potential renters the necessary peace-of-mind needed to consider house-sharing at various stages of life, when before they were only considering self-contained suites. It’s a great option for seniors who may need a bit of extra assistance around the house, and for young people who are looking to relocate to the Sunshine Coast.

A quick search on the webpage and I can see Happipad is already being used in Kelowna, Abbotsford and Vancouver, to name a few BC cities. There are no listings anywhere on the coast (I searched Pender Harbour, Egmont, Langdale, Roberts Creek, Sechelt, Sechelt Indian Government District, Gibsons, Gambier and Keats Island)….but it would just take a little momentum and local buy-in for that to change. If enough people sign-up, we could actually, as a community, start to tackle this affordable housing crisis we find ourselves in. Why not give it a try, even for a month, and see how it goes?

This housing crisis is a big puzzle that takes action from many levels….and maybe a little enterprise like Happipad could prove to be a small, but easily accessible and important piece of the puzzle here on the coast. What do you think? Check it out at: www.happipad.com . And, for the record, while the Sunshine Coast Resource Centre has zero affiliation with this platform, we do have a vested interest in sharing any and all information that could help our community find affordable housing!

Angie Theilmann is an information and referral specialist at the Sunshine Coast Resource Centre, your community information hub. The Resource Centre is open Monday to Thursday 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Appointments are recommended to be sure we are available to help you. Contact us: help@resourcecentre.ca or 604-885-4088.