It now appears there will be no additional "employee" or "affordable" housing this winter. Despite earlier efforts to get at least part of the Millar's Pond project built, and last minute efforts to find portable housing units — the Whistler Valley Housing Society even considered renting the Prince George, which sits idle in Britannia, and bussing employees to Whistler — the valley goes into what will almost certainly be its biggest winter ever with likely its worst housing crisis ever. The consequences, what it means for those looking for a place to live, are heard daily: people living in vehicles, in crawlspaces, under hot tubs. The (possible) long-term consequences won't be felt for some months; when enough visitors receive poor service from employees who haven't had a decent night's sleep in months. The customers may decide not to return next year or may even decide Whistler is no longer worthy of its precious Number One ranking. There is also the potential loss to the community of long-term residents, people who decide it's no longer worth fighting to find a place to live every year or commuting to work from Squamish or Pemberton. So who is to blame for this predicament? Certainly the Whistler Valley Housing Society's attempt to find temporary housing was belated — it was apparent last spring when Village North construction started the valley would require a considerable influx of new employees. It wasn't until August that land owners were approached about providing temporary housing, and then it took another two months before council could deal with the matter in a public hearing. But that is only the most recent effort. Affordable housing has been an issue in Whistler for at least a decade. And, more tellingly, every affordable housing project that has ever been built has been opposed by at least some in the surrounding neighbourhoods. The few developers or land owners who have been willing to build affordable housing have sometimes been accused of "buying" zoning for other projects. Certainly council and the Housing Society have been slow in finding solutions to the affordable housing problem, but the community of Whistler as a whole must carry some of the blame. The issue is rarely discussed until a specific proposal comes to a neighbourhood, and then the discussion is about the detrimental impact the project will have on the neighbourhood. Now, when affordable housing is front and centre in people's consciousness, is the time to discuss solutions. Prior to next month's Town Hall meeting a forum will be held to discuss affordable housing. It won't have any impact on housing this winter, but it may go a long way toward making Whistler more affordable and liveable in the future.


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