First Person: Tim Wake 

The houseworker

The general manager of the Whistler Housing Authority says there isn’t any one answer or any simple solutions to Whistler’s housing situation. Tim Wake, the energetic and passionate force driving the WHA, has a unique position in Whistler as the steward of our inventory of employee-restricted housing.

He has witnessed the housing evolution through his involvement at the WHA for the past five years. At the same time, his position gives him a unique perspective to look into Whistler’s future and predict how things may unfold for this community in years to come.

Whistler is now at a crossroads. The numbers speak for themselves. Whistler’s total peak season workforce is 14,000 and rising. The resident workforce is 10,600. There are 3,800 people living in restricted housing.

Meanwhile, the number of employees living in private sector (or market) housing is getting smaller every year. Resident owners are cashing out and moving elsewhere and fewer homes are being built as housing for our workforce.

Wake says one thing is for certain, Whistler by comparison to other resorts, is doing just fine. The only worry is whether things will stay that way or not. Tim Wake talked to Pique Newsmagazine about Whistler’s future housing goals and needs to ensure that vibrancy remains in this community.

Pique: Housing became a very contentious issue during the recent municipal elections. Why?

Wake: The first thing to recognize is that things are really very good today but we cannot stop the clock. We certainly have some challenges but we are housing 75 per cent of our workforce in Whistler. And most of those people are adequately housed. Certainly there’s a proportion of that 75 per cent who are inadequately housed. Part of the struggle and the anxiety that we’re seeing around housing is about that portion of the workforce in the community that are not adequately housed and see very little hope of being so. But another part of the anxiety is that what has worked in the past is no longer working. And this exhibits itself in the suite that was affordable once but is no longer affordable. The market suite that was once $400 per person is now $700 or $800 per person. That’s one example.

Pique: The percentage of the workforce housed in the community has also dipped in recent years.

Wake: We were at 80 per cent in 1997. We did a survey then and we found, actually a little bit to our surprise, that we were at 80 per cent because that’s a better number than virtually any resort community that we know of.

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