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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Rejecting affordable housing for families unacceptable

WedgeWoods Estates’ David Earhardt presents to the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District board of directors about an affordable housing proposal on March 20, 2019 in Pemberton. On Aug. 26, the SLRD board rejected the proposal at first reading. FILE PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS

As young professionals that have lived in Whistler for over a decade, and are on the verge of starting a family, we find our choices for secure housing rather slim. Slim on rentals and slim on purchasing options. 

We weren’t of the means to buy a property of our own before the market went into overdrive (pre-2015), and have watched what little choices we had tossed out of the window along the way since. 

Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) is somewhat of an option if you’re in the top 100 people; otherwise, you could be waiting for years to find an affordable place to call your own. 

So what about everyone else that has set roots into this area?

This is why we were so shocked to see our local councillors on the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) board reject the recently proposed WedgeWoods West affordable housing development. The project didn’t even get a chance to offer solutions for the issues that were raised. It was simply rejected at first reading. 

We watched the meeting online and were frankly astounded at some of the reasons as to why this project was rejected: Added congestion, lack of walkability, the question of zero-emission buildings, even a question of liability to the SLRD for the developer offering 300 acres of land, for free. 

This project could house 52 families. Where do you think they will have to go to find suitable housing for starting or continuing families? Likely further afield, and have to drive more and add more “congestion” for a greater distance, or leave the area all together. 

The corridor knows it needs affordable housing, which is why it seems crazy that an option for it was delivered to them on a platter! Where else will a municipality find a developer willing to gift the land portion of a development to provide housing at only the build cost? Land is a huge component to cost in any development, so this sounds like a no-brainer. 

Sure, there are some tweaks that will need to happen in terms of pedestrians on or near the highway, but that is what second and third readings are for.

Here you have a developer willing to build apartments and townhomes at $315 per square foot final purchase price (which, by the way, is less than the latest two-bed-plus-den sale with the WHA), within six minutes of a shopping hub at Rainbow, that could provide security for 52 local families at an affordable price. 

How many of our local professionals starting the next chapters of their lives are moving further afield every year?

Here is an option—presented on an affordable platter. 

We wonder how many of the councillors rejecting this project walk to their workplaces, have zero-emission houses or even had to pay half a million dollars for their first home? That’s what affordable is now... half a million dollars. And that still comes with caveats in the form of restrictive covenants and pricing control. 

We were excited to see the project move forward as a possible option for our future family. Why did you reject an affordable housing solution in our area, councillors, when the housing shortage is, and has been one of the biggest areas of concern for our area?

Richard and Lainey Grenfell // Whistler

Sea to Sky Highway no place for car rally

I am a part-time resident of Whistler and was horrified to hear about yet another crash on the Sea to Sky Highway on Sept. 5.

As I’m sure most people now know, the cars involved were part of the [Hublot] Diamond Rally—a “private rally for registered drivers and navigators” that starts in Vancouver and ends in Pemberton.

I cannot think of a more foolish way to raise money than to allow hundreds of expensive, high-performance cars to take part in a “rally” on a dangerous highway on one of the busiest weekends of the summer.  

There are some things we cannot control on the highway, such as the volume of cars and the weather. Yet we can control how we use the highway through the types of events we allow and by how they are managed. 

I urge Pemberton and Whistler municipalities to tell the organizers of this rally to take their racecars elsewhere.

Bree Stanlake // Whistler

Essential health staff needs WedgeWoods housing

I’m writing to address concerns I have regarding the [rejection by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) of the] WedgeWoods West application for [affordable housing]. 

I’m very disappointed in the reasons listed by [councillors on the board] to vote “no” to this project; the benefits of this project far outweigh the voiced concerns. 

I find it hard to understand how SLRD councillors who live in Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) housing would vote no for others to have this same opportunity. 

At Whistler’s [Health Care Centre], our own staff struggle to find housing here. Of the nurses that own regular positions in Whistler’s emergency room (ER), 25 per cent of the regular staff rent and would buy in Whistler if there was availability. Of the casuals that work regularly in ER, more than 50 per cent that rent in Whistler would also like to buy in Whistler. The rent for one of the nurses is $2,600 a month. For the staff that can’t afford to live/rent in Whistler, they are forced to live in Pemberton and Squamish. 

When there is a trauma in the ER that requires extra staff, it is the local staff that provide the fastest staffing assistance and increase patient safety. Otherwise, additional staff must drive from Pemberton or Squamish, which takes an hour, and if the highway is closed, then this is not an option. 

Nursing is just a small portion of the entire staff needed for the daily operations of the Whistler Health Care Centre. This doesn’t include doctors looking for permanent residence, imaging staff, lab staff, mental health staff, community health nurses, administration, and building operations. 

Furthermore, health care workers are not the only essential service workers in Whistler that are in the same housing situation. 

If the Whistler municipality does not have another affordable housing option that will replace these 52 units, the vote should be “yes” for more affordable housing units at WedgeWoods. 

Having essential, emergency service providers in the community best benefits the residents and populations of Whistler.

Tanya Murdock // Whistler 

FireSmart thanks

The Emerald Neighbourhood Committee would like to praise and thank the FireSmart Program for giving us use of a FireSmart bin for the past two summers. 

The neighbourhood has managed to clear out 280 cubic metres of fire-hazard waste (seven bins) as well as having the FireSmart crews chipping numerous piles of branches. 

From the suggestion of the neighbourhood activist, Mike Suggett (who recently passed away), the crew also did a fantastic job of clearing the brush, branches and other detritus around Emerald Park. 

We now have a reasonably large and safe gathering area for any emergency evacuation going north.

Bob Calladine // Whistler 

Encore for Art on the Lake

We’d like to give a big shoutout to the folks at Arts Whistler for putting on the most delightful outdoor event!

With hundreds of people on paddleboards, kayaks, canoes and the like,it was a fabulous day on the lake. Well done! 

We sure hope Art on the Lake becomes a yearly event and look forward to the second annual [in 2021]!

Lyall Fetherstonhaugh and Carol Severson // Whistler