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Councillor, WHA chair applies to subdivide lot

Davies proposes to create one market lot and one employee restricted lot on his property

A potentially groundbreaking application to subdivide a large Alpine Meadows lot into two separate lots has generated a lot of interest and discussion at the council table.

On Tuesday night an application came from Councillor Nick Davies, who excused himself from the debate while council mulled over his unique proposition.

Davies, and his wife Karen, propose to subdivide their lot in Alpine Meadows into two lots. One would be a market lot and the other would be a market-restricted lot, meaning it would be restricted to Whistler employees but it would not have price restrictions.

The couple plan to live in the restricted home.

"I’m trying to establish a precedent for a policy that addresses a different segment of the market," said Davies after the meeting.

"… I’m trying to establish a policy (for) people in this community like me, local business people, local doctors, local professionals, who have been around for a while and they have equity tied up in their homes that they can’t use. This is a way for somebody to pull some equity out of their home."

But council on the whole were lukewarm to the idea of creating a market-restricted home without price constraints.

"I would absolutely not entertain this without full restriction," said Councillor Kristi Wells.

"That’s the key to affordability."

Councillor Ken Melamed had the same sentiment.

"I’d like to see it move forward but I’m not comfortable with the level of restriction," he said, adding that if there are no price restrictions Whistler hasn’t achieved its affordability goals.

Davies’s lot is 13,000 square feet and valued at $1.3 million. The size of the lot allows for a 4,600 square foot home on the property.

The current home was built in the early ’70s and is now in need of extensive renovations.

Davies said he has three options.

He could build a new home.

"One alternative would be to do a joint venture agreement with a builder and build a 4,600 square foot starter castle and sell it and make a whole bunch of money," he said.

A second option is to sell the lot as it is.

"Now if we simply sell the lot, whoever buys that lot is not going to renovate that house…. It’s an old house that was built in the very early ’70s with typical early ’70s construction standards. It’s served its useful life. And so whoever buys that property will tear down that house and build a starter castle themselves."

The third option is to do something innovative with the property themselves, and that’s the option that has come before council.

"So we’ve said to ourselves: ‘What’s in the best interest of the community, which is not going to leave us in the hole?’" said Davies.

"What we propose to do is recognize that land is becoming increasingly scarce in this community. We cannot keep squandering by building houses on large lots…. So what we propose to do is create two lots and the new lot will be resident restricted to ensure that it is always available for an employee."

And yet, if council insists on resale restrictions, Davies said the math simply does not work.

"If we restrict the resale price of the restricted lot, we will lose a significant amount of money," he said.

"It’s as simple as that."

The established number in Whistler to build resident-restricted housing comes in at $155 per square foot.

Council debated on Monday night if that is a number that should be re-examined.

Councillor Caroline Lamont who lives in the resident-restricted housing at 19 Mile Creek, pointed out that her unit is no longer worth $155/square foot. It’s now worth much more.

Melamed said he would be prepared to revisit the established number.

"I’m going to be reluctant to move it but I’m prepared to entertain it," he said.

But crunching the numbers, Davies said even if they build the restricted house at $200 per square foot, a 2,200 square foot home will cost $440,000.

If they sell the market lot for $750,000, their net equity would total $1.19 million, which is $110,000 short of the value of the original lot.

"We are prepared to forgo a large profit and we are prepared to try and set a precedent and do what’s right for the community, but not if it’s going to cost us $140,000," he said.

Davies, who is also chair of the board of the Whistler Housing Authority, said in Whistler’s history resale restrictions have been problematic.

"Tapley’s Farm was resale price restricted and they succeeded in completely removing the covenant from the Tapley’s Farm properties," said Davies.

He points to the success story of Lorimer Ridge, which has the employee restriction covenant and no price restriction.

Properties in Lorimer Ridge sell for roughly $1 million, whereas the equivalent property on the open market sells for roughly $1.5 million.

"My view is that the market does a better job of regulating the price for theses properties than the housing authority and council," said Davies.

"The affordability factor is being addressed by the market."

In the end the proposal, the likes of which have never come before council to date, was sent back to staff for further review.

Specifically council called for an analysis of full price control, as well as suggestions to ensure that if there is a price restriction the owners can’t find ways out of the covenant.

Council was eager not to close the door on the application, rather find ways to make is work for both parties.

Recognizing this was council’s first look at his proposal Davies was not discouraged by Monday’s debate.




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