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Choosing the right temporary accommodation after a disaster

By Isabelle Ladouceur-Séguin|6 min|October 2021

Updated: October 26, 2021

After a disaster, it's normal to be under a lot of stress. This can feel paralyzing and make it more difficult to do things like find temporary housing. To avoid rash decisions, it's best to take a deep breath and get informed. Here are some tips on how to choose the right temporary housing.

Think about your needs

Before you begin your search, think carefully about your needs. Here are some things to consider.

Your budget

Start by setting a budget so you don't overspend. You can then use it to find an affordable temporary accommodation. In fact, some search platforms allow you to specify a price range. This way, you only see results that are within your budget.

If you have home insurance, contact your claims adjuster. Ask him or her how much coverage you have for additional living expenses. This is the amount that will cover your relocation costs while your home is being renovated. Knowing this information will help you set a budget.

The space

Think about how much space your ideal temporary accommodation should offer:

  • number of rooms
  • number of bathrooms
  • storage
  • size of living areas
  • seating capacity
  • working desk

For just a few days, you'll probably need little storage. But it's another story if you're going to live in your temporary home for several months. In that case, you will likely need more cupboards and drawers to store your belongings.

The location

Where should your temporary accommodation be located? In a central area or in a neighbourhood with good public transportation? Close to your home to better supervise the construction work? Within walking distance of your workplace or your children's school?

In any case, here are some services you'll like to have nearby:

  • public transportation, gas station or bike path
  • grocery store, restaurant, café, convenience store
  • pharmacy
  • daycare or school
  • bank or ATM
  • parks and entertainment

The amenities

Amenities are all the "extras" that temporary accommodation can offer you. Some will be essential to you, while others are little luxuries that you can do without. It all depends on your needs and on how you will use the accommodation.

Here are some common amenities:

  • complimentary breakfast
  • cable television
  • wireless internet connection (wi-fi)
  • towels and bedding
  • fridge and/or stove
  • washer and dryer
  • kitchen equipment
  • etc.

Depending on the length of your stay, some may be more useful than others. For 2 or 3 nights, a complimentary hotel breakfast can be practical. But for the medium term, a fully equipped kitchen will help you save on restaurant costs.

Think about the amenities that you really need and that fit your budget. This will help you make choose the right accommodation.

Your constraints

Your situation could eliminate some temporary housing options from the get go. For example, many establishments don't accept children and/or pets (but note that they are not allowed to turn away service animals).

Some establishments may also limit or refuse extensions. This can be a problem if the construction work on your home takes longer than expected. In that case, you may have to move from one place to another for some time.

Before making a reservation, read the rules carefully. Check if it fits your situation and your needs. This will help you avoid unpleasant surprises.

Explore your options

Once you've made a list of your needs, consider your options. Some temporary accommodations are better suited to your situation than others. To find them, it's best to know what's available on the market.

Here are the main types of temporary housing available to you.

Housing for disaster victims

Some companies offer fully furnished and equipped temporary housing to disaster victims. Their services are designed with your needs in mind. For example, you can extend your stay if necessary. You can even book a temporary accommodation without setting a departure date.

Also, companies that offer these services often have agreements with insurance companies. In most cases, you don't need to front the costs and then get reimbursed. All you have to do is sign a form called an "assignment of claim". This allows your insurer to pay the housing provider directly.

Tourist accommodations

Tourist accommodations can be a good option for short-term relocation. Units range from a single room to an entire apartment or house. Prices also vary greatly depending on the type of accommodation but the 3.5% tax on lodging applies.

Hotels

For very short stays, you can choose to stay at a hotel. This way, you can enjoy concierge service, room service and other benefits. However, keep in mind that these come at a cost. If you have to relocate for several weeks or months, a hotel room is an expensive option.

B&Bs and motels

Other tourist establishments such as B&Bs and motels are slightly more affordable options. But for the medium term, they're less convenient. For example, most don't give you access to a kitchen or laundry facilities. And in some B&Bs, the bathroom may be shared with other guests.

Tourist apartments and furnished cottages

If you want to rent an entire apartment or house, you can explore tourist rentals (found on platforms like Airbnb) and furnished cottages. There are a lot of them on the market so you will probably find something to suit your needs. However, make sure that the accommodation is in order, as many are illegal.

University residences

Many universities allow members of the public to rent student residences during summer. They often costs less than a standard apartment.

That said, amenities vary greatly from one residence to the other. Some are similar to fully furnished and equipped apartments, while others have shared kitchens and bathrooms. It's best to find out what's included ahead of time.

Campgrounds

If you're not looking for great comfort, campgrounds are a good option during the warmer months. For a small fee, you can pitch your tent or trailer for several days or weeks. This option is less practical if you're not equipped for camping

Trailer on your property

If you have the space, another option is to camp on your own property. Some disaster victims buy a trailer to live in while their home is being renovated. They then keep it or sell it after the work is completed.

There are a number of advantages to this approach. First, the costs are much lower. They can even be almost zero if you sell the trailer afterwards. You're also close to your home and can better supervise the construction work. However, living in a tailer is less comfortable and more cumbersome than renting a furnished and equipped home.

Make the right choice for your family

Now that you know your options, think about which one would best suit your needs. Target a temporary accommodation that :

  • fits your budget
  • is just big enough
  • is well located
  • offers just enough amenities
  • works with your constraints

Sometimes, a pros and cons list can help. If you want, you can even place your criteria in order of importance. Then, all you have to do is find and rent the ideal temporary accommodation.

Good luck with your search!

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