The Whistler Housing Authority has entered into contracts to purchase two more pieces of property for employee housing and is expected to name a general manager next week.
Steve Bayly, who has been interim general manager of the Whistler Housing Authority since it was created last fall, said this week announcements regarding both the property purchases and the new general manager are expected shortly.
One of Bayly’s duties as interim general manager has been to hire a permanent GM. Seventy applications for the job were received and 12 people were interviewed.
As for the two parcels of land, Bayly said the housing authority is just waiting for council approval of the purchases. He hopes to see some construction of employee rental units on one parcel this summer, but there likely won’t be any ground-breaking on the second parcel before the spring of 1999.
"We’re really doing the community’s business," Bayly said of the housing authority and private developers providing employee housing.
He noted that employee housing is always given a high priority at town hall meetings, but support seems to dwindle every time a specific project is proposed for a neighbourhood. He wouldn’t be surprised if there is opposition once the location of the two properties being purchased is announced, but Bayly pointed to the Suncrest/Sunridge development next to Brio as an example of how employee housing can fit into a neighbourhood.
"They did the employee housing first, and now the million-dollar lots are beside them. If they’d done it the other way around they never would have got approval for the employee housing."
Bayly feels strongly that employee housing should be integrated into existing neighbourhoods, rather than all built in an isolated area like the Callaghan Valley.
"These are the people who teach your kids in school, or their your nurse or whatever. They’re you, except they didn’t get here 15 years ago," he says.
The Whistler Housing Authority was created by council last fall to facilitate the development of employee rental housing, to make recommendations to the board of its parent company, W.V. Housing Corporation, regarding private-sector employee housing proposals, and to manage the employee housing stock owned by the municipality.
The municipality is the sole share holder in W.V. Housing Corporation. The board of directors of the corporation was increased from three to seven this week by council. The board now includes Mayor Hugh O’Reilly, municipal administrator Jim Godfrey, Councillors Dave Kirk, Ted Milner, and Kristi Wells, Paul Stashick and Bayly.
Meanwhile, Bayly says the housing authority’s project on Lot 78 in Nordic should go to tender next week. The foundations for the project, which will include 18 two-bedroom townhouse units and two three-bedroom townhouses, was completed last year. All units will be permanent resident rental units.
The single family lot which was created as part of the project has not been sold yet and likely won’t be offered for sale until the project is completed.
Among other employee housing initiatives:
o The housing authority has re-done the rules for employee housing lotteries. Among the changes: applicants must have lived in Whistler for at least one year.
o The housing authority is moving toward establishing a list of employees eligible to purchase employee-restricted units when they come up for re-sale.
o Whistler council Monday approved dormitory-style employee housing within 3,550 square feet on the top floor of the lodge being built on Lot 19, next to the Alpenglow. The plan proposes seven bedrooms, for 14 employees, with kitchen facilities, washrooms, laundry, a living room, dining room and storage. The housing will accommodate 14 of the 33 employees the project generates under the employee housing works and service charge.
As for private-sector employee housing proposals, the 19 Mile Creek proposal sits at second reading while the developer awaits a meeting with the Ministry of Fisheries and Crown Lands. If issues can be resolved with those ministries a date can be set for a public information meeting and a public hearing.
The other two private proposals that are most likely to come forward this year are the Nesters Hill proposal and a development, possibly in conjunction with developers of the Westin Hotel, for Art and Nel Den Duyf’s land in White Gold.
"There are three costs to employee housing," Bayly says: "The cost of land, the cost of building and the cost of borrowing money.
"I hope that we get on with it before interest rates rise."