employee open house 

By Bob Barnett The Whistler Housing Authority would like to introduce a new word to the employee housing debate: dialogue. Six months after it came into being, the housing authority is starting to shape housing issues, refining the lottery process, inviting neighbours and stakeholders to express their views and taking a long-term — rather than piecemeal —approach to employee housing. The housing authority has recently purchased two pieces of property for employee housing: the Beaver Flats property in Whistler Creek and a site on Lorimer Road, opposite Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church. The housing authority is inviting neighbours and stakeholders to an open house at the Catholic church on Saturday, May 9 to discuss the Lorimer Road project. "We want to discuss the best and most appropriate way to develop the site," said housing administrator Tim Wake, who is working with the housing authority general manager, Rick Staehli. The housing authority sees the site at 6320 Lorimer Road as a good location for long-term rental units, ones which would be leased to long-term employees, likely on an annual basis. Wake doesn’t expect unanimous support for the project, but hopes that this informal discussion early in the process, before plans have been drawn, will prevent serious conflicts. Jon Paine of Snow Country Consultants, a local design professional, will be at the open house, which takes place between 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. "We want to provide an informal process for communication prior to the legal requirement of a public hearing," Wake said. While the housing authority hopes to begin work on the Lorimer Road site this summer, there won’t be any work done on the Beaver Flats property until 1999. The housing authority is waiting for a meeting with Intrawest to determine how their plans for re-routing Whistler Creek will affect the Beaver Flats property, immediately north of the Whistler Creek Lodge. The Beaver Flats site will likely be used for townhouses, which will be sold to qualified employees. Both the Beaver Flats and the Lorimer Road site will have to be rezoned before employee housing is built. Meanwhile, construction on the housing authority’s Lot 78 employee housing project in Nordic Estates should begin early next month. Another permanent-resident rental project, the 18 two-bedroom townhouses and two three-bedroom townhouses should be ready for occupancy by late fall. In addition to these three projects the housing authority is building, a couple of privately developed employee housing projects should provide employee accommodation this year. Work is scheduled to begin shortly on the Spruce Grove employee townhouses, with occupancy expected by next winter, and the apartment rental units of the 19 Mile Creek employee housing project may be ready for occupancy by winter. The 19 Mile Creek project still has to meet several conditions before council gives the project fourth reading. Other privately developed employee housing projects on the horizon are the Nesters Hill proposal, one in White Gold proposed by Art Den Duyf and Cressey Developments, and further down the road, Intrawest’s plans for the Spring Creek subdivision. As well as building housing, the housing authority is working to improve the lottery system whereby "winners" get the first opportunity to purchase employee housing units. Wake is developing a points system, based in part on the length of time someone has lived in Whistler, to draw up a waiting list of people who qualify for employee housing projects, either new ones or price-controlled units that come on the market for re-sale. The list should give some people more confidence that they will eventually have a chance to own in Whistler, rather than trusting their luck in a lottery. "I think even if people knew 18 months from now they would have a chance to buy something it would make a difference," Wake said. The housing authority is also hoping to hire two summer students to update data on the demand for employee housing and track any changes in demand that may be occurring. "Whistler never stays the same. It’s a moving target," Wake said. He added that the housing authority is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. week days if people want to drop in with questions. The Whistler Housing Authority is located next to the museum, at 4335 Main Street in Village North.

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