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Nova Scotia has come up with a new way to deal with the province’s housing crisis, but a group that represents commercial landlords says the program could create new problems.

The provincial government announced Friday it will spend $1.3 million over two years to expand its partnership with an online home-sharing platform known as Happipad.

Operated by a Canadian non-profit organization, the platform brings together renters seeking affordable, month-to-month accommodation with residents who have rooms to rent in their homes.

The partnership was launched in the spring to help people displaced by wildfires, and is now available to people across the province.

Housing Minister John Lohr said the partnership is a call to action to those who have extra space in their homes. Lohr said there are 130,000 vacant bedrooms across Nova Scotia that could be used on a short-term basis by students, health-care workers, tradespeople and others seeking a safe, affordable and comfortable place to live.

“This partnership truly encompasses the hospitable nature of all Nova Scotians,” Lohr said in a statement.

Under the program, Happipad conducts background checks before matching renters with hosts. The company also collects and distributes the rent, and provides dispute resolution.

The government says rents paid through Happipad are typically at rates below those of other rentals.

According to Happipad’s website, would-be tenants using the app are not charged any fees, but landlords are charged a five per cent service fee, which is deducted from the monthly rent. As well, landlords must pay a $50 placement fee, which is taken from the first month’s rent.

Happipad CEO Cailan Libby issued a statement saying the organization, which already operates in every province, wants to bring new purpose to empty bedrooms across Nova Scotia.

“Whether it’s older adults seeking a housing companion to share their home with or newcomers and students in search of safe and affordable accommodations, Happipad embraces people of all ages,” Libby said.

The non-profit organization estimates there are more than 12 million empty bedrooms across Canada.

Kevin Russell, executive director of the Investment Property Owners Association of Nova Scotia, issued a statement saying the program is a great idea but its expansion will overburden the province’s “broken and unenforced” residential tenancies system, which governs disputes between tenants and landlords.

“With the Nova Scotia government stating that the Residential Tenancies Act will apply to the (Happipad) home-sharing program, this has the potential to create new demands on a system that both tenants and rental housing providers agree is not working,” Russel said.

“As new landlords and tenants are created by the home-sharing program, how will the province’s broken system handle the expected increased demand?”

Under Nova Scotia Residential Tenancies Act, anyone who pays rent to a homeowner is a tenant under the law, while the homeowner is considered a landlord.


Story by: CTV News