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VANOC staying quiet about housing search

Meanwhile Whistler Workforce still only has 19 tenants for the 360-bed project

Even though the clock is ticking, VANOC officials are staying quiet about their search for accommodation in Whistler for Olympic workers and volunteers.

This week VANOC declined to speak to the media about their housing search, saying they are currently in negotiations and will make a public announcement sometime around May 15.

However, Pique Newsmagazine has learned that only one homeowner in Whistler so far has filed for a Temporary Commercial Use Permit (TCUP), allowing them to rent their property to workers with VANOC during the Olympics.

Less than 10 months prior to the 2010 Olympics it seems unlikely VANOC can rely on TCUPs to house the hundreds of workers needed in Whistler during the Games.

VANOC has secured some of the 750 rooms for essential workers the organization was looking for in February, but could not provide a figure.

The organizing committee needs 5,000 rooms in Whistler for February 2010. As of Jan. 1, VANOC stated it had obtained 87 per cent of its Games-time accommodation.

Some of the accommodation VANOC still needs will likely be filled through its Homestay program. The program provides Olympic tickets to hosts who provide beds for volunteers. The first deadline for potential hosts to register is June 1, 2009. VANOC has not confirmed how many beds in the program has provided to date.

Meanwhile other Olympic groups are also tackling their Whistler accommodation search with full force. Negotiations are currently underway to convert the Pemberton Business Park into a temporary work camp to house almost 2,000 security guards during the Games.

And VIA Rail is in the process of hammering out a deal to provide Olympic bus drivers with accommodation in rail cars in Vancouver. The rail cars could sleep up to 100 drivers.

But while it may appear any lodging in Whistler during Games time is a valuable commodity, at least one accommodation provider is having a hard time finding tenants.

This week Alvaro Ponce de Leon, president of the temporary Whistler Workforce neighbourhood, said only 19 of the 360 beds he planned to build in prefabricated buildings near the village have been claimed.

"My assumption was some of these beds would be needed, but now I think I might be wrong," said Ponce de Leon."

"We have invested a significant amount of money, and we are still nowhere."

Yet Ponce de Leon said regardless if more people sign up or not, his group will still construct at least one building - holding 36 beds - for the 19 tenants registered because he has already made a commitment to those people.

Whistler Workforce has received a building permit, and Ponce de Leon hopes the one building will be erected by the end of May.

He added that Whistler Workforce has now secured two different sources of funding, making it unlikely that the temporary housing project will fall to the same fate as its predecessor, the Phoenix housing project. Phoenix was spearheaded by Whistler's business community but fell apart last year after supplier SG Blocks could not get financing.