For most newcomers and international students arriving in Canada and seeking accommodation, a very short-term rental usually comes first, followed by a longer-term rental.
But there is another housing solution for newcomers: home-sharing, or rooms for newcomers.
Home-sharing, of course, is not new to Canada. Other home-sharing programs exist, primarily focused on keeping seniors living and aging in place and helping students find affordable accommodation.
Home-share solutions for newcomers
It’s also looking to enlist settled newcomer homeowners as hosts.
Sparrow teams with Prepare for Canada
This Sparrow-Prepare for Canada initiative aims to provide immigrants and international students with accommodation sharing, another housing alternative to apartments, condos, or house renting.
“We need to do a better job of making it easier and safer for newcomers to find good housing options in Canada,” said Oren Singer, co-founder and CEO of Sparrow. “There’s a ton of underutilized housing space in the form of spare rooms and basements.
“With the cost of living so high these days, we’re seeing many homeowners turning to home-sharing as a way to supplement income.”
The rooms-for-newcomers project is definitely timely.
Rental demand across the country is soaring (and vacancy rates are falling) as tens of thousands of newcomers and international students arrive each month.
Immigration is driving rental demand
Canada’s ambitious immigration targets are definitely fuelling rental demand and competition for available rental accommodation. In this case, it’s helpful to know how newcomers to Canada can impress a landlord.
Canada plans to welcome 465,000 new immigrants this year after admitting a record-breaking 431,000 newcomers in 2022, mainly from India, the Philippines and China.
The country hopes to land 485,000 newcomers in 2024 and 500,000 in 2025. Canada has also welcomed a record number of international students, with those numbers continuing to rise.
Where will they live?
Five million spare bedrooms in Ontario
To reach the optimal vacancy rate of three percent (it’s now hovering around 2 percent), the report said Canada would need to add 332,000 rental units over the next three years, which would mark an annual increase of 20 percent compared with the 70,000 units built last year.
Sparrow estimates that there are over 12 million empty bedrooms across Canada.
In Ontario alone, it’s estimated that more than half of residents — and three-quarters of those over the age of 65 — live in houses that are bigger than they need, leaving five-million spare bedrooms across the province, according to a pre-pandemic report by the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis.
Newcomer homeowner hosts are also needed
“We have an opportunity and responsibility to reimagine how we use and share our housing space,” says the Sparrow website. The company also notes that one in five Canadian renters spends more than half their income on shelter costs.
Obviously, to meet the demand for accommodation sharing, Sparrow and Prepare for Canada are looking for hosts in addition to housemates.
Toronto host is paying it forward
The lack of affordable housing for renters, plus population growth and inflation, inspired homeowner Karen H. to become a Sparrow host. “I decided that I could pay it forward by helping somebody get in a space to live at a reasonable price.”
Karine S., who rents a room from Karen in Toronto, said that initially, she didn’t know about the Sparrow concept of housemates and renting a room. She said she was hesitant at first because of previous issues with roommates.
A Sparrow Story – Karen & Karine from Sparrow on Vimeo.
“I was a little bit wary going into this,” she said, “but the thing that really clarified it for me was actually finding a compatible match (Karen).”
Rental costs in Canada are soaring
In addition to demand and competition for rentals, the price of rents across Canada keeps increasing, particularly in popular Gateway cities such as Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.
So, how do “rooms for newcomers” work?
Sparrow’s home-sharing platform and community match hosts with spare bedrooms with newcomers and international students seeking budget-friendly places to live. The company also sees its business as building social connections and increasing the quality of life for Canadians.
In fact, a recent study shows that “altruistic motivations were expressed by home providers with respect to the difficulty young people face in finding housing in large urban areas.” Intergenerational learning was also cited as a motivation for hosts.
Housemates can rent for as little as two months
Under the Sparrow/Prepare for Canada initiative, newcomers can rent a room for as little as two months or for a full year.
“You decide how long you’d like to home share for, and we’ll find you the right fit,” says Sparrow.
Here’s how the program works for newcomers in four easy steps:
1 – Create your free account and member profile, and say what kind of place you’re looking for.
2 – Connect with a pool of like-minded hosts who have bedrooms for rent and choose the right fit for you.
3 – Review and sign your home-share agreement.
4 – Move into your new home. Sparrow’s concierge team is available every step of the way.
According to Sparrow, the average rent is approximately $750 monthly, depending on the home and location (according to Rentals.ca, the asking rents for all property listings in March reached an average of $2,004).
Focus on safety and security
Sparrow does credit and background checks and attempts to match people based on compatibility.
Hosts can list their space and create a profile for FREE. A service fee for hosts is only charged once the host has received the first rental payment from the housemate.
The host service fee (a one-time only fee) ranges from 1/4 – 1 month’s rent, depending on the length of the home share contract:
2 – 3 month term length = 1/4 month’s rent fee
4 – 5 month term length = 1/2 month’s rent fee
6 – 9 month term length = 3/4 month’s rent fee
10 – 12 month term length = 1 month’s rent fee
There are no Sparrow service fees for housemates.
The company focuses on ensuring safety and security. Its matching process involves rigorous identity verification, background checks, home share agreements, and screening interviews. Sparrow also matches based on compatibility to enable better connections based on habits, lifestyles, and living preferences.
Anyone who decides to become a host should check with their insurance company to see if any additional coverage is needed.
Sharing accommodation is an affordable option for newcomers
“Rooms and/or basements on the Sparrow platform are more budget-friendly compared to an average studio or 1-bedroom rental rates,” says Singer.
“Sparrow is a purpose-driven home-sharing platform and community that makes it easy, safe, and enjoyable to rent a room,” said Frattini.
“Together, we’re on a mission to help newcomers enter the rental market faster and easier than ever by connecting newcomers with newcomer and newcomer ally homeowners who can help newcomers find safe and affordable housing. We’re pleased to launch this initiative, and we look forward to reaching out to any and all homeowners across the country who want to contribute to building this innovative housing solution for newcomers.”
Matching newcomers to a place they can call home
For newcomers to Canada and international students, renting a room represents an affordable and viable path to sharing accommodation in Canada, and a chance to make a lifelong friend.
“We’re proud to collaborate with Prepare for Canada to help connect and match newcomers to places they can call home,” says Singer.
Newcomer homeowners and renters can sign up here.
*No AI-generated content was used in the writing of this story, and all sources are cited and linked where possible.