Happipad Spotlight on Lauren Hjalmarson
Happipad spotlights the great tenants, landlords, and property managers who care, who nurture, who grow the communities that we enjoy.
Lauren Hjalmarson is one of those people who make things happen.
Like many young professionals in Kelowna, Lauren grew up in this beautiful city, left to pursue her studies, and returned home to build her career. Last April, she completed her degree in Interdisciplinary Performance at UBC Okanagan, where she honed her skills in writing, performing, and visual arts. She now applies her talent in a variety of projects. She’s the author of the children’s book Rory and the Coyote. She’s a media professional who assists companies through writing, on-camera work, and video production. She’s also the creative catalyst for an exciting project called notTV, an online streaming platform that will offer curated, local viewing options. In short, she’s a mover and a shaker.
Lauren has been a renter for nearly a decade. By and large, she has had excellent experiences and has been fortunate to secure long-term housing with great landlords. In recent years, however, she has noticed that finding housing in Kelowna has become increasingly cut-throat. After her landlords took over the basement suite where she’d been living in May, finding her new home required an extraordinary amount of resourcefulness, persistence, and luck.
“It was nearly impossible to find a place to rent. I spent hours looking but there was very little on the market for long-term renters. When I looked at short term rentals, on the other hand, I could see that there were hundreds of listing. It’s frustrating that it’s so easy for visitors but so hard for the people that actually live here.”
Not only did she notice the lack of selection in rental housing, it was quickly apparent that the cost of renting had gone up. Way up.
“I think there has been an effect because of AirBnB where landlords expect to make more money from their rentals. This has driven up rents for everyone.”
Undaunted, Lauren used her professional network in Kelowna to generate leads. Having previously worked as a reporter for KelownaNow, Lauren contacted a reporter who currently worked there and suggested a story to highlight the rental shortage in Kelowna and the dire situation renters face. After that article was published, Lauren left comments linked to her Facebook profile, in hopes that a landlord would reach out to her. Her plan worked. She was able to secure an illegal suite in West Kelowna after connecting with the landlord through Facebook.
“It’s very stressful and expensive to move. When you have student debt, you really don’t want to waste money moving from place to place. I tried to move myself this last time to save some money, but injured my knee. For the next move, I’ll have to hire movers. I’m just hoping that won’t be soon. I know I live in an illegal suite, but it’s all I could find.”
Lauren’s frustrations with renting ultimately led her to connect with Happipad. She had heard about a community event hosted by Happipad to discuss short-term renting. Lauren attended the event and voiced her frustrations with the effect AirBnB has had on the rental market.
“It was awesome to have a public forum where we could speak with an elected official on the challenges that renters face. There’s so much I love about Kelowna, but it’s getting harder and harder to live here. We have a thriving creative community and there’s still that tight-knit feel. It would be a shame to lose that due to affordability.”
Lauren’s story reminds us why it’s important for cities to have a healthy rental community. Affordable rent allows young professionals like her to grow, develop their skills, build their connections, and launch new businesses. In recent years, Kelowna has benefited from a migration of young people from unaffordable cities like Vancouver. If current trends continue, Kelowna may soon follow in Vancouver’s footsteps and see young talent move away again.
This post was written by Happipad