Sale of staff housing may finance more employee beds 

Whistler-Blackcomb is looking into selling its employee housing buildings, and then leasing the properties back as a means of financing additional employee housing.

Dave Brownlie, senior vice-president of finance for Whistler-Blackcomb, said the company is looking into the sale and lease-back scenario as a financial tool.

"We’re not looking at getting out of housing," Brownlie emphasized. "This would allow us to finance new housing."

The idea is that Whistler-Blackcomb would sell the staff housing buildings it owns, including Glacier Park at Base II, to an investment financing company, such as G.E. Capital. The sale would include a 20-year lease back to Whistler-Blackcomb and an option for the company to buy the buildings back.

The employee housing buildings do not show a return on Whistler-Blackcomb’s financial statements, but housing employees is crucial to the financial success of the ski area operator.

"Nothing changes, to our employees, to Whistler-Blackcomb, to the housing stock," said Brownlie. "It’s just a (financial) tool to build more housing."

Whistler-Blackcomb has done some renovations to the Glacier Park buildings this summer. Units that had hotplates, half-sized sinks and little cupboard space were completely renovated. Existing kitchen areas were expanded to provide new stovetop burners, a full sink and increased cupboard and counter space. The kitchen expansions were achieved by using closet space from one of the bedrooms and rearranging the units’ layout. The bedrooms have had shelving added to compensate for the lost closet space.

Whistler-Blackcomb also has employee housing in Nordic and Brio and is building a new 47-unit employee housing building on Alta Lake Road, opposite Twin Lakes. The new project will provide beds for an additional 172 Whistler-Blackcomb staff this winter.

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