By Michel Beaudry
When it comes to resident housing, some people at Whistler have it backwards. At least, that’s what former council member Caroline Lamont thinks. “The asset to protect isn’t the housing,” she says, “it’s the people who live and work and make the resort community run! After all, that’s what resident housing is supposed to be all about. But you’d never know that from the way things have been going lately. People are being told that they’re greedy. That they’re just thinking about themselves. Sadly — that’s not the case at all. For those of us who didn’t get into the housing market early enough to be sitting on million-dollar equities, it’s really tough. We’re just trying to survive — trying to figure out how to make it work at Whistler…”
The irony in all this, she adds, is that the community desperately needs her Gen X cohorts (the group between 30 and 45) to stick around for the long-term. And yet they’re the ones facing the biggest financial hurdles right now. “What’s going to happen after 2010 when all the Baby Boomers running Whistler cash in their chips and move to warmer climes?” she asks. “Who is going to make this place work if we can’t afford to live here anymore?”
Lamont is no newcomer to housing issues at Whistler. A member of the WHA board from 2001 to 2005 (she sat on the Whistler 2020 Resident Housing Task Force and the Resident Affordability Task Force as well), Lamont also served as a member of the WHA’s predecessor, the Whistler Valley Housing Authority, from 1990 to 1996. She adds: “I have a bit of history with this subject as I was the staff planner for the municipality who worked on most of the affordable housing projects, research and policy during the early 1990s.”
That’s why she’s so uneasy with what’s been going on of late. Her experience tells her that all the recent controversy over resident housing could have easily been nipped in the bud. “It’s all about process,” she says. “If the Housing Authority had gone directly to the people involved and said: ‘Hey — we have a problem. How are we going to work it out?’ I’m sure they could have found some common ground. Instead they chose to use a top-down decision process.”
She sighs in frustration. “The process was entirely flawed. People should have been told right from the start: ‘Look — we appreciate your position. We really want you to stay at Whistler. So let’s sit down together and devise a working solution to this issue.’ Instead they created an Us-Versus-Them scenario that has split the community and threatens to alienate the very people we need at Whistler right now.”
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