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Wade running for council seat to make difference on housing

Marianne Wade has been considering running for council for about 18 months, ever since the Zen development proposal was rejected by the current council. Last week she decided to throw her hat into the ring.

Marianne Wade has been considering running for council for about 18 months, ever since the Zen development proposal was rejected by the current council.

Last week she decided to throw her hat into the ring.

"The Zen project is one of the main reasons I’m running," said Wade, who was a consultant on the project. "I’m very concerned about housing."

In fact, housing has been much of Wade’s career.

When she was still a graduate student in planning at UBC in the late 1980s she was hired by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation as a social housing officer. Her duties included running non-profit, urban native and co-op housing programs.

She moved on from CMHC to join the B.C. Housing Management Commission, where she ran a rental supply program which included working with developers to build rental housing.

From BCHMC Wade joined Terra Housing, a private firm with a mandate to represent not-for-profit groups in need of housing. That was during the early ’90s, when there was close to zero vacancy in Vancouver, illegal suites were a big issue, and affordable housing was a huge topic, particularly in relation to the development of the Expo lands.

"I was on every design panel and commission in Vancouver then," Wade says. "My job was meshing provincial programs with municipal policies.

"It was probably my most rewarding work, working with people who had sort of lost hope and didn’t have a comfortable place to call home."

It was also during the early ’90s that Wade became a weekend warrior at Whistler. Through friends and business acquaintances she came to work for Caleb Chen on his Nicklaus North development, and moved to Whistler.

"It had just received third reading," says Wade. "My job as development manager and co-ordinator was to take it to fourth reading and get construction underway."

The controversial project had some highly technical issues to overcome. Wade was involved in integrating flood construction levels with flood routes and habitat preservation in the wetlands. A three-month process she initiated led to the creation of the vegetation management habitat program, which is now used by the province and the municipality as a tool.

"Nicklaus North was a good platform for me to graduate from the public sector to the private sector," says Wade.

"I had to deal with lots of people, the heart and soul of the community, people like Jack Demidoff, Whistler Air, Art Den Duyf. I had really good people mentoring me.

"And we showed you can find a solution. Just because there is a conflict doesn’t mean you can’t find a solution."

As for running for council, Wade says her "biggest disappointment of the last three years is (the present council) has done nothing on housing.

"I think there is still time to deal with affordable housing. There are difficult land issues involved, but if we don’t deal with them in the next term I think we’ll be in real trouble. Employees are the ones who create the experience. We have to have a core group living here."

Wade says the municipality doesn’t need to do any more research on housing.

"We need to make the hard decisions. The number one issue is housing, stablizing the community and creating a balance."

She says fiscal responsibility is another concern of hers.

"Public buildings built with public funds need to be managed carefully. It affects our ability to deliver affordable housing.

"We can’t look at things in isolation. We have to look at the full effect."

Asked if building more affordable housing is the answer for Whistler Wade said: "I think we have to intensify the use of lands. Single family lots are not necessarily the best use of the land. Right now we need an apartment building.

"Is it building our way out of it or is it making the best use of the available lands?"

Following the Nicklaus North development Wade went to work for Intrawest’s Resort Development Group, and was in charge of the Taluswood project.

She left Intrawest a couple of years ago and has been working as a consultant to various projects, including Zen’s proposal and the Kicking Horse resort in Golden.

She is the current chair of Whistler’s Advisory Planning Commission and has been a member of various other committees and societies in Whistler, including the Whistler Valley Housing Society, the Community Services Society, the public art committee and the original village enhancement committee.

Wade says: "There’s lots of good stuff that’s been done on sustainability in (municipal) hall. We need to take the reports off the shelves.

"We need to understand sustainability, make it simple, practical and implementable."

But housing is the key issue for Wade.

"My passion is housing. I have the tools, I know the policies. We can make it happen."