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Employee housing soaks up Whistler council time

Council briefs: Development permit for Function project; Seniors to benefit from community funds
muni hall
Whistler's municipal hall. File photo.

The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) has increased the maximum rental amount for future employee housing at 5298 Alta Lake Road following a lengthy discussion on how much to raise it by.

Under the initial housing agreement signed off on by the municipality, future owners of the 21 employee houses to be built could charge up to $800 per room. That number was questioned by councillors at the May 28 council meeting when staff recommended increasing the maximum amount the developer could sell the units for at the developer's request, but without a parallel increase to rental amounts, and the issue was set to come back before council with changes.

Council's issue with the number was that by increasing the selling price, the developer could benefit (and the project remain viable), while future owners of the units would not see the same benefit.

When it did return to council at the June 11 meeting, some councillors were not too impressed with the amount it went up by, with staff recommending an increase from $800 per room to $806.26 per month, per the increase in Consumer Price Index (CPI) since the registration of the housing agreement in 2023. Likewise, the maximum rent per square foot went from $2.75 per square foot to $2.77, and the rental rate for the entirety of a three-bedroom unit went from $3,695.00 to $3,723.90.

Mayor and council engaged in what ended up being an hour-plus-long back and forth, divided by a handful of intermissions on whether to go with the CPI-connected increase, go to 30 per cent of current minimum wage in B.C., a 16-per-cent increase in line with the increase to sales price, or a different number as settled on by council.

Speaking to the suggested numbers that came up during the meeting, Mayor Jack Crompton counselled against making policy on the fly, noting if they strayed from existing policy or staff recommendations they needed to acknowledge that.

In the end, council voted 5-2 to increase the amount owners of the future units at 5298 Alta Lake Road could rent a room for by 16.5 per cent over the $800 that existed in the initial housing agreement, to $932 per room. The maximum rent per square foot will go to $3.20, and the maximum amount for a three-bedroom unit would go to $4,306. It was opposed by Crompton and Councillor Jeff Murl, who later noted the gap in municipal policy.

Council also made a resolution to direct staff to do policy work and come up with a new formula that would dictate the amount homeowners of units governed by employee housing agreements could charge for rooms, with a percentage of minimum wage to be considered.

“We would like to see a formula that follows current economics,” said Coun. Cathy Jewett, who later noted the RMOW would likely be seeing more employee-restricted housing in the future.

Alpha Lake Road project gets three readings for development permits

The Resort Municipality of Whistler has given first three readings to the issuance of development permits and a housing agreement for a major housing development at 1000 Alpha Lake Road, which will see 72 employee housing units added to Whistler’s inventory.

Whistler's mayor and council previously approved a rezoning to allow the project to proceed back in April 2024, when the Lil’wat Nation-led project was revised to allow for more housing and the removal of a previously-proposed brewery.

Council voted unanimously to give three readings to a development permit and housing agreement for the project, which will include three, four-level-equivalent buildings with employee housing and mixed commercial/industrial space. There will be a mix of one-, two-, and three-bedroom units across the project.

As per amendments in the development permit, before any construction can take place, the RMOW will receive a security deposit of $255,355.63 to ensure landscaping works are carried out in accordance with the development permit.

The lands have long been in development.

As per the housing agreement, all of the 72 employee housing units will be rental units. There are no rent maximums imposed on the owner of the units.

Last of Community Enrichment Program funds gets allocated

The last of Whistler’s Community Enrichment Program (CEP) funds will go to the Mature Action Committee (MAC).

From an initial budget of $180,504, 35 applicants received $169,185, while 10 students from Whistler Secondary School received $1,000 scholarships, leaving $1,319.36 leftover for 2024.

In a report to council on June 11, staff laid out which groups got everything they wanted, and which groups got less than they asked for, with 31 applications falling short, of which MAC was one, missing out on $2,290 of its initial $4,290 ask.

Coun. Cathy Jewett was the only councillor to speak to the report.

“I had previously asked if we could assign that money to the Mature Action Committee,” she said. Council voted to allocate all of the leftover funds to MAC.

MAC will spend its CEP funds on its ongoing sessions and seminar series for mature Whistlerites in an effort to combat loneliness.