Another tight year in store for housing 

WCSS releases Whistler Survival guide for newcomers

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BRADEN DUPUIS - SURVIVAL STRATEGY The Whistler Community Services Society doesn't provide housing services, but its Whistler Survival Guide is designed to help newcomers navigate the resort.
  • Photo by Braden Dupuis
  • SURVIVAL STRATEGY The Whistler Community Services Society doesn't provide housing services, but its Whistler Survival Guide is designed to help newcomers navigate the resort.

While the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) is moving ahead with a plan to add 1,000 new beds over the next five years, this year's housing situation is expected to stay much the same as last winter.

That is to say, tight.

The RMOW has been speaking to businesses in town to get a sense of how the situation is unfolding.

"I think the expectation is that given the big year of growth we've had in 2017, many of our larger employers are expecting similar results or numbers to last year, which means similar employees," said economic development officer Toni Metcalf in an Oct. 3 presentation to council.

"So I think we're in a reasonably similar situation to what we were last year... from what I understand, over time, many people have been able to find housing, but certainly rental rates have increased, and continue to increase."

Results from the Whistler Housing Authority employer housing needs survey are expected in the coming weeks, Metcalf added, after which the municipality will have a clearer picture of the current situation.

But one only needs to look to local social media forums for evidence of the continued housing crunch, as more and more people have taken to posting personal ads in search of homes before even arriving in town.

Prospective renters also need to be aware of scams, of which the Whistler RCMP were notified of two in the past week alone. The public needs to be aware of both vacation home and monthly rental frauds, an RCMP spokesperson said.

To avoid becoming a victim: Do not wire money — especially to someone in another country. Meet with the person you are renting from face to face and have them show you the accommodation. Obtain identification and the phone number of the person you are attempting to rent from. Beware of online ads or emails with misspelled words and incorrect grammar — these may be international scammers using an internet translation tool. Pay by credit card after you have seen the property and are satisfied, and remember: If a deal is too good to be true, it is probably a scam.

Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) is still seeing the crunch, too.

"The housing challenges are definitely remaining in the forefront. Nothing has changed on our end," said WCSS executive director Cheryl Skribe.

Housing is not one of the services provided by the WCSS, Skribe noted, and the number of people coming to them for help with housing is not growing, as most people understand that fact.

"What we can speak to is our stance that stable housing creates a platform for people to thrive in their lives," Skribe said.

"Without this platform, one's life can lose stability and continuity, thus nurturing stress and anxiety."

The WCSS may not be able to help you find a home, but a multitude of other services are available through the organization, including counselling and the food bank.

There's also the Whistler Survival Guide: a one-stop shop of resources, information, maps and more for newcomers to the resort. Find it at www.mywcss.org/whistler-survival-guide.

One factor that has impacted housing availability locally is what the RMOW calls "blockage" in the housing continuum — with market rates far exceeding those found in the resident-restricted market, it's difficult for families to move into market homes.

But not all resident-restricted WHA inventory is affordable, either.

One WHA unit currently for sale — a three-bedroom townhouse at 19 Mile Creek — has "exhausted" the WHA's waitlist, as its maximum resale price (MRP) is currently valued at $735,000.

The owners can now list the property elsewhere, but can only sell to a local Whistler employee.

The WHA explained that the MRP is set for each individual unit, and in this case was set back in 2000, based on a formula tied to the Vancouver Housing Price Index.

When resold, the unit will change over to the Core Consumer Price Index formula for MRP, which the WHA has been using since 2006, starting at its sale price.

There are still about 80 units, or 11 per cent of the WHA's price-restricted inventory, tied to the VHPI formula.

WHA historical resale information is available at www.whistlerhousing.ca/pages/historical-resales-information.

A community forum detailing draft recommendations from the Mayor's Task Force on Resident Housing is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 2 in the grand foyer of the Whistler Conference Centre.

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