RNIP

North Okanagan residents open homes to immigrants

Gain a happy face around the house, some extra cash and help newcomers

Finding a place to stay is getting easier for immigrants coming to the North Okanagan for work.

Those moving to the area from around the world for permanent work through the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot (RNIP) now have access to a new website, happipad.com/rnip, to obtain accommodation while they settle into the community.

The North Okanagan Cultural Homestay Program has been created through an innovative partnership between Happipad and Community Futures North Okanagan and Social Planning Council for the North Okanagan with support from the Local Immigration Partnership Council and the Vernon & District Immigrant and Community Services Society (VDICSS).

Homeowners with extra room in their home can join the platform to connect with newcomers through this or other Happipad home share programs.

A simple application form will get homeowners connected with an intake professional who will help match homes to people seeking accommodation.

RNIP is a pilot of the Federal Government designed to spread the benefits of economic immigration to smaller communities by creating a path to permanent residence for skilled foreign workers and their families. RNIP immigrants have been offered full-time permanent employment in our community in a variety of occupations.

“This website addresses a growing need for employers who are attracting new talent to our communities,” said Community Futures executive director Leigha Horsfield, also RNIP manager. “Housing is a significant part of addressing our growing labour force needs.”

The pilot area includes Vernon, Armstrong, Enderby, Lumby and Lake Country.

The new North Okanagan online platform, created by Happipad, can enrol as many homeowners as want to participate. A variety of home options will be needed for individuals, couples, and families. Ideally homes should offer a shared or separate kitchen area and bathroom as well as a private bedroom.

“Local homeowners can have a positive experience sharing their home with someone from another culture while playing a significant role helping newcomers adapt and feel welcome in their new community,” said Annette Sharkey, planning council executive director. “We feel excited that if many homeowners sign up, this North Okanagan homestay program may be expanded beyond this pilot group.”

The program offers an added benefit to newcomers, as explained by Philipp Gruner, VDICSS interim executive director: “Newcomers are often at a disadvantage when looking for housing on arrival to Canada as they do not have an established tenancy record here. This collaboration is beneficial to both newcomers and their hosts: it gives local residents an opportunity to open up their homes and participate in cultural exchange while helping immigrants gain first rental references in Canada.”

Homeowners set their own price working with Happipad which also manages the monthly rent transactions between the two parties. As a home-sharing option, the rental tenancy laws do not apply; however, both homeowners and homestay guests will sign an agreement through Happipad.

“Our team welcomes the opportunity to provide the Happipad platform in partnership with RNIP because we know it can create a more positive welcoming experience for newcomers in the North Okanagan,” Happipad CEO Cailan Libby said. “This type of collaboration has the potential to be expanded to other regions and especially where there are housing supply pressures for immigrants.”

Funding to promote this portal for homeowners and newcomers to connect is through the Economic Trust of the Southern Interior and the Government of Canada and the Province of British Columbia.

READ MORE: Vernon business makes the most of immigration pilot program

READ MORE: Immigration pilot helps Vernon businesses address labour shortages


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