Sixty thousand dollars to
rent a home for one month over the Olympic period could be too much for at
least one Whistler homeowner to turn down.
“I’ve been approached for 28
days,” said the homeowner, who asked not to be named.
“The money is fairly
The deal, which has not yet
been signed, would mean that the home, including the one bedroom suite, would
need to be vacated for the Olympic time period.
This homeowner has already
approached his tenants with a proposal — vacate for a month and come back to
six months free rent.
The couple, one who works in
construction and the other who works in the hospitality industry, wasted no
time agreeing he said, seeing the golden opportunity for a month long vacation
while saving roughly $5,000 in rent upon their return.
But that means they won’t be
working in Whistler during the Games. And that could be a problem for the
The issue, which has been
worrying resort leaders, was raised again at the Olympic town hall meeting on
In response to questions
about the accommodation, Mayor Ken Melamed issued a plea to homeowners to
understand the problem and not exacerbate it.
“This is less about them and
more about us and Canada,” he told the audience at Millennium Place.
“Show the world that
Canadians are the gracious hosts that we are.”
In an interview later this
week he admitted that $60,000 is a lot of money and hard to say no to.
“I understand the appeal,” he
said. “It’s hard not to find that attractive.”
On the one hand this
homeowner, like many others who have been approached, is simply taking
advantage of market conditions and meeting a need that has presented itself
with the Olympics. On the other hand, less homes for locals could spell
disaster for a resort that needs to function at well beyond its normal busy
capacity come February 2010.
The mayor cautioned that
homeowners taking the short-term gain could have a negative impact on the resort
in the long-term.
Olympic visitors, and more
importantly, Olympic media, will be shining a spotlight on Whistler during the
Games and if the story is that it’s too expensive, with no suitable
accommodation and not enough workers, that could have repercussions down the
road and impact business for the next 15 to 20 years.
The resort in many ways is
still recovering from what the mayor called the “millennium effect” when it
seemed no price was too high for Whistler guests.
“We have been recovering from
a period of excessive pricing from the turn of the century,” he said, adding
that it has taken a lot of work on the part of Tourism Whistler and
Whistler-Blackcomb to get across that the resort is good value for the money.
The municipality has been
considering its options, both incentives and ways to enforce the laws, to
prevent homeowners from seizing on these Olympic opportunities.
Technically, homes in
residentially zoned areas cannot rent to tourists for less than 28 days.
“(The laws) get grey after 28
days,” said Melamed.
Rather than take the
enforcement route, the municipality would rather look at incentives: could
there be perks or benefits for those landlords who can show their lease extends
past 2010 for their tenants?
“We don’t even know what we
can offer,” he said. “We need to start working on some ideas.”
And though the Games are
still two years out, there are organizations such as national ski teams,
government organizations and international corporations, who are looking to ink
There are already signs that
renters are getting nervous.
Whistler Housing Authority
housing administrator Jessica Averiss said the list for rental housing managed
by the WHA has more than doubled in the last year and now sits at almost 150
applicants. That’s the list for people waiting to get into a long-term, fixed
price rental unit.
“It’s in anticipation of
losing their accommodation or just not having certainty in their existing
accommodation… or in anticipation of their rents being increased,” said
Both the municipality and the
WHA are asking tenants to be their own advocates.
“We’re recommending that
wherever possible have that conversation with your landlord to find out what
their plans are,” said Averiss.
The homeowner considering the
$60,000 has been upfront with his tenants and found a solution that works for
“I wouldn’t be evicting
them,” said the homeowner. “If I decide to rent I’m going to sign a contract
with my tenant.”
The mayor reminded local
businesses who could potentially lose staff that the onus to some extent is on
them to ensure they have staff with accommodation during 2010. (see related
story on page XX.)
“The message to local
businesses is that this is their responsibility,” said Melamed.
It is not clear how
widespread the problem could be but there are more and more stories of
homeowners in discussions to rent their homes.
There are in excess of 12,000
tourist accommodation zoned beds in the resort.
The Vancouver Organizing
Committee for the Games (VANOC) needs less than half of that to meet its needs,
around 5,000 beds.
Between 80 to 85 per cent of
those beds have already been secured with contracts.
But there are still several
groups that need to be housed, not the least of which is the unaccredited media
who will be writing stories about the resort itself, and security.
VANOC is aware of the
challenges in Whistler.
“This is not unique to
Whistler,” said CEO John Furlong at Saturday’s meeting.
“We’ll get past this one.
We’ll figure it out. We have to.”