Employee-housing rental building planned for White Gold 

New rezoning application proposes 65 units

click to enlarge IMAGE SUBMITTED - IN THE ZONE A rendering of a proposed employee-housing development adjacent Highway 99 in White Gold
  • Image submitted
  • IN THE ZONE A rendering of a proposed employee-housing development adjacent Highway 99 in White Gold

A new rezoning application proposes to add a 65-unit, five-storey employee rental housing building at the corner of Nancy Greene Drive and Highway 99 in White Gold.

The project is headed by Innovation Building Group/Vidorra Developments, which submitted the rezoning application on Jan. 9., and plans to offer pricing in line with current Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) rates.

The project has been under consideration for a couple of years, but it was the new guidelines for private developers that came from the Mayor's Task Force on Resident Housing that made the difference, said Rod Nadeau, a Whistler builder since the late '70s and managing partner of Innovation Building Group.

"I wasn't really going to do it until I read through their policy, and it fits with what we're doing," Nadeau said, adding that his team modified the plan of its recently completed building in Pemberton and put the project together over the course of a few weeks.

Current proposed rates range from $998.50 for a one-bedroom apartment to $2,015.60 for a three bedroom.

Rent increases would be tied to the annual provincial allowance, which is usually close to the rate of inflation, Nadeau said.

The developers will turn a profit, mostly due to the fact that they have several projects underway or completed in resort communities across B.C. (in Pemberton, Revelstoke, Tofino and Golden).

"We will make money on it, but it's totally different — you don't make much, but you make it every month," Nadeau said.

"So this isn't worth doing if you own one building, but our goal in 10 years is to have 1,000 units, and we understand resort towns, and the problems associated with building, and the complexities and the demographics."

While the project will use WHA guidelines to find applicable tenants, it is unclear what role the WHA waitlist will play at this time.

"We haven't sorted that out. The problem in this town is there is going to be a fight to get them, and how do we as professionals be fair to everybody?" Nadeau said.

But the developers will most likely end up working with the WHA, he added.

"They have a long waitlist, they have people who have been on it for a long time," Nadeau said. "We can fulfill that need, but there is other things to consider."

Either way, the focus will be on renting to individuals rather than directly to businesses.

"The whole notion of employers controlling accommodation for their employees, I’ve been dead set against that from the first time it was suggested 20 to 30 years ago," Nadeau said. "We don’t need to go back to the coal mine days."

The building will be constructed to a net-zero energy standard and include rooftop solar panels and two electric cars available exclusively for residents through a car share program.

If all goes smoothly, construction would likely begin in 2019 with a move-in date the following year.

Find more information, including renderings, floor plans and the complete rezoning application, at www.vidorralife.com/7104-2/.

Pick up next week's Pique for more.

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