editorial 

In Aspen, the Catholic church is offering to build employee housing — Divine Intervention the Aspen Times calls it. In Whistler, it seems it will take a similar force to make any impact on the employee housing situation. A year ago there was wide-spread panic as another record-breaking summer of construction was creating space for new businesses and generating a corresponding increase in the number of employees. It was the employee housing crisis to end all crises. The situation reached the point where temporary trailers were proposed, then quickly cancelled. This year, after another record-breaking summer of construction, the only addition to the affordable or employee housing inventory is the 85 units at Millar’s Pond. Council had hoped to have some of those units ready for last winter but essentially ended up tendering the project twice and putting it back a full year. The municipality’s affordable housing fund has grown in the last year to $4.5 million — and will probably get to $6 million by year end — based on contributions by developers. However, the inventory of employee or affordable housing beds is falling further behind the demand. Whistler Valley Housing Society Chair Max Kirkpatrick admits its the same situation as last fall. "We worked hard and I thought we had made some progress but... "We’ve got several good looking propositions and I’d like to get them on the table, but it’s not easy." The problem, Kirkpatrick says, is the public process, and some council members "posturing." "We have to be seen to be fair to everyone," he says. It’s also getting late in the political mandate of the current council. No one will predict how bad the situation will be this winter but the Chamber of Commerce cancelled a housing fair it had planned for this weekend. Apparently the mountains’ phone campaign, asking property owners if they would rent a room to their employees, sucked up a lot of what was available. Many small business owners have also secured housing for their employees this winter. So, if you don’t have housing now or your boss doesn’t have it for you, good luck. With time running out — again — the best that may be hoped for is to get the message out loud and clear to the next council: create some affordable housing. Acquiring land for free or well below market value seems to be the difficult part of the affordable housing equation. The present council has decided to issue another call to private land owners to see who is interested in providing land for employee housing projects, but the municipality is only entertaining development proposals for 100 per cent affordable housing projects. In other words, don’t expect a rush of offers for free land. But there is a tool to create some housing: the employee housing fund. Start planning now for how that money is going to be spent so that it creates some housing for next winter.

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