Companion housing is an affordable housing solution that connects two or more compatible, but unrelated, people to share a home. Housing companions are different from roommates as there is a greater emphasis on compatibility, equality and sharing within the home. The most common arrangement is an older homeowner or tenant renting a spare bedroom in their home to a housing companion.
The Companion Housing Network demonstration will showcase a web-based companion housing platform that allows peer-to-peer creation of companion housing arrangements. This centralized system will make it possible to implement a companion housing model across large areas in a cost-effective way. This in turn creates new housing opportunities for vulnerable populations who need affordable housing the most, such as seniors.
3 Key Innovations
A web-based companion housing platform to enable large-scale house sharing in B.C. and Alberta.
Partnerships with community and housing organizations to offer sustainable companion housing services with minimal staff costs and overhead.
Standardized education materials and best practices for individuals and organizations to adopt companion housing.
Project scope and expected outcomes
Companionship and security
Companion housing services have existed for decades, and hold considerable potential. According to the 2016 Canadian Census, for instance, there are over 12.2 million empty bedrooms in Canada. Companion housing uses those bedrooms to provide housing for vulnerable groups, often at rates well below those of other rentals.
There are other benefits to companion housing. For example, the 2016 Census found that single-person households now exceed other household sizes in Canada. Housing companions are carefully chosen to create family-like housing arrangements where they support each other and fairly share housing costs. They can offer companionship, security and possible assistance with household chores. Companion housing can also provide support for newcomers to Canada, helping them adjust to Canadian culture.
These benefits are why many community organizations consider companion housing an ideal affordable housing solution. Despite this, implementation and uptake have been mixed. Companion housing services offered by organizations generally have a dedicated housing coordinator who matches potential companions. This requires resources and a skilled coordinator, which is a challenge for community organizations. Volunteer-run programs also have struggled to offer long-term sustainable solutions.
The few successful companion housing programs that have achieved sustained impact have cross-sector partnerships, clear mandates and dedicated resources. However, it has been challenging to demonstrate their technical capability or financial viability to operate province or-nation-wide. As a result, companion housing services have never realized their potential.
Making companion housing viable on a large scale
The Companion Housing Network demonstration will showcase an innovative approach that makes delivering companion housing viable on a large scale. It uses an online platform that combines elements of matchmaking and home listing sites. Each listing provides a price and location, along with information about the potential companion, such as noise tolerance and cleanliness. This lets people review relevant information about potential companions before making a decision.
The technology also enables users to self-manage their companion housing arrangements. This includes procedures for safety deposits and rent payments, and legal documents that they can use. These are features that people who want to establish a companion housing arrangement in the open market generally can’t access. It can also be scaled beyond the local market, allowing it to be used across entire regions.
Community organizations from across B.C. and Alberta
The demonstration brings together Happipad, the platform’s developer, with a collection of community organizations from across B.C. and Alberta. The partners have chosen to participate in the demonstration at any (or all) of three levels:
- At the advisory level, the partners participate in monthly meetings within the collaboration. They also conduct a survey to assess interest in companion housing among their members.
- At the educational level, partners also disseminate a web-based education course and hold at least one workshop on companion housing.
- At the participatory level, partners will also collaborate with Happipad to run a 6-month companion housing pilot. After the pilot, the organization will conduct an evaluation of the financial feasibility of offering long-term companion housing programming.
To date, 8 partners will be involved at the participatory level. They will run 6-month pilots at their sites. The platform’s developer will provide ongoing support throughout the demonstration, leading the development of standardized education materials and manuals. These will be distributed to staff and the platform’s users. The developer will also assist with data collection.
Increasing housing options and supporting aging in place
In the short term, the demonstration will showcase how a companion housing model can be implemented across different geographical areas. The centralized platform assists community organizations with addressing traditional challenges related to widespread use of companion housing. This helps the organizations better respond to affordable housing needs. It also has the potential to support seniors with aging in place.
Over the longer term, successful relationships with demonstration partners will pave the way for new partners in different regions. This will make companion housing options available more widely. It will also provide evidence about companion housing’s effectiveness for increasing affordable housing options and supporting aging in place.
Project Team: Happipad Technologies Inc.
Location: B.C. and Alberta
Project Collaborators / Partners:
- Affordable Housing: Vancouver Island Society (AHVIS)
- Home Together
- Hornby and Denman Community Health Care Society
- OneSky Community Resources
- Chilliwack Community Services
- Alberta Seniors & Communities Housing Association
- West End Seniors Network
- Seniors Outreach Services Society
- Robson Valley Support Society
- Alberta Council on Aging
- DIVERSEcity Community Resources Society
- Seniors Come Share Society
Get More Information:
Email Innovation-Research@cmhc.ca or visit our website to learn more about the initiatives under the National Housing Strategy.
See how you can apply for a Demonstrations Initiative grant.