Chamber taskforce contacting businesses about housing 

Members of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce can expect to receive a broadcast e-mail in the next couple of weeks from the chamber’s Employee Housing Taskforce.

Ian Davis, chairman of the taskforce, said the e-mail will be asking employers for their level of interest in leasing employee housing and subletting to their employees.

"We won’t be asking for a commitment, but the co-operation of businesses would be greatly appreciated," Davis said. "The level of business interest in this type of project is one of the things that’s been questioned."

More than 100 members of the business community attended a Whistler council meeting in May to deliver a message about the need for seasonal employee housing. The turnout came after two development proposals which included employee housing were rejected by council.

Municipal staff and most councillors felt the proposals, on balance, didn’t meet the community’s needs. However, part of council’s response included criticism of the business community for not getting involved in the housing debate earlier.

Following the meeting the chamber established the Employee Housing Taskforce to gather input from local businesses. The taskforce has met once since the May council meeting.

The model for employee housing now being considered by the chamber involves a private developer building and possibly owning employee housing units, but individual businesses signing long-term leases for the units. The developer/owner would then be guaranteed rental income 12 months of the year and small businesses could sublet the housing to their employees.

Davis said the properties could be controlled under the Hoteliers Act, rather than the Landlord-Tenant Act. This allows the employer to tie housing to employment. Rent can be deducted straight from wages and any employee who ceases to work for the company that controls the unit could be asked to move out immediately; the 30 days notice required under the Landlord-Tenant Act would not apply. Intrawest has controlled its staff housing this way for years.

"Traditionally businesses have been reluctant to become landlords," Davis said. "This would make it simpler."

One employee housing project following this model has been discussed but has yet to formally go before council for approval.

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