Could this project help address our housing crisis — and put a roof over refugees’ heads?

Nicholas Keung, Toronto Star

Operating like a non-profit version of Airbnb, an online home-sharing platform has been launched in the face of Canada’s housing crisis, addressing the needs of at least one particularly vulnerable group.

The new tool by Refugee Housing Canada matches asylum seekers in need of safe, secure accommodation with Canadian hosts who are willing to open their home and offer their spare rooms at an affordable rent.

It works like a dating site, where both the hosts and renters undergo vetting and create a detailed profile of what they are offering and what they are looking for before making a connection to decide if they would be a right fit in terms of considerations such as asking rent, location, lifestyle and daily routines.


Tsering Lhamo of Toronto’s FCJ Refugee Centre said asylum seekers face tremendous obstacles in securing housing due to social stigma, and landlords often turn them away because they have no references or credit and job history in Canada. (Though many asylum seekers are eager to work, they must still wait for a few months for a work permit.)

“They arrive here with no means and have to rely on social assistance, which gives $733 a month for a single person,” said Lhamo, whose centre runs four transitional homes that house 40 women and children, and now has to rent on Airbnb to accommodate more than 50 others monthly.

“That money includes all the basic needs and shelter. Where can we find a place like that?”

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