A humble thought born of too much time spent on one issue: Maybe we have been going at the affordable housing issue from the wrong end. Rather than building a mountain of restrictions and covenants to try and bring housing prices down to where people can afford them, how about raising incomes so housing might be affordable on its own? Of course we all would like a raise, but short of starting our own mint and apportioning the end product to local, qualified residents it’s not going to happen. But there are other ways of measuring income or wealth. Start with the cost of living in Whistler. How much is spent on basic necessities — aside from housing — such as food, transportation, clothing, maybe even lift tickets, since for many that is a basic reason for living here? Add into that equation how much "extra" time (you decide when "extra" time kicks in, after a 40-hour week, a 60-hour week, an 80-hour week) is spent working to afford those basics, remembering that time is money. Now, if residents didn’t have to spend as much on food, transportation, clothing and lift tickets they might be able to stash more away to buy housing, or, if not housing, at least buy into the Whistler experience — and get a feeling for what a caring place this can be. We’re talking about personal subsidies, rather than housing subsidies, but it’s already being done in some instances. Some employers cover the cost of a season pass for employees. Some retailers offer locals’ discounts. They are disparate efforts and individually may not have a big effect on the cost of living, but if a co-ordinated program was put together it might add up to substantial savings. If the program was just straight discounts some people would no doubt take their savings and spend them in a bar. But it could also be organized as a series of credits, rather than cash savings. It might take an army of accountants to co-ordinate the program among various employers and businesses, but it may take an army of bureaucrats to sort out the restrictions and limitations on affordable housing.


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