housing authority 

By Bob Barnett With the initial housing registry closing tomorrow (Oct. 31) and the Nordic project nearing completion, the fruits of the Whistler Housing Authority’s labours are about to start blooming. Founded in the fall of 1997, the Whistler Housing Authority has spent its first year of operation providing advice on private employee housing projects, working on housing projects of its own, compiling a registry of people looking for long-term rentals and another registry of people looking to buy employee housing. The Nordic project — rental townhomes — should be substantially completed by Nov. 1, Tim Wake of the WHA said this week, but the housing authority’s list of renters doesn’t come into effect until the same day. "If we committed all the units now we might have someone come in later this week who qualifies higher on the list," Wake said. Instead, the housing authority is pre-screening the list of applicants and checking the qualifications of those at the top of the list. Wake says the WHA hopes to have some people move in over the next couple of weeks. The WHA’s target is to have all the Nordic units occupied by Dec. 1. Interest in the rental registry has not been as great as interest in the ownership registry, but that was expected. As of Monday the WHA had about 75 applications returned, but more were expected by the Oct. 31 deadline. More than 400 registry applications have been handed out. "Most people looking to rent (at this time of year) are looking to rent tomorrow," Wake said. "Fewer people understand long-term rental. I don’t think we’ve reached all the long-term rental people yet." The WHA came under fire from some Whistler property owners last summer who suggested the rental market was flooded and there was little need for additional employee housing. WHA researchers will release a report on the rental market next month. "The research we’re doing looks at the longer-term picture," Wake said. "People said last summer there were lots of units for rent. That’s normal. "This winter we’ve had lots of people say yes, there are lots of rentals listed, but when you look at them individually they don’t work. "Early indications are this winter we will have a shortage of adequate rental housing." "Adequate" and "affordable" are a tough words to define. For example, a two-bedroom townhouse in the new Nordic housing project will rent for $1,160. That’s market value, but Wake says people have to look at what the WHA is trying to do. "On the ownership side, we’re trying to create a completely separate market," one in which employee-owned units will stay affordable in perpetuity, regardless of what the "real" market does. "On the rental side, we have a strong private rental market in town and most of it is fair. What we’re trying to do is not undercut the rental market. We’re trying to make sure there’s an adequate inventory, filling in where the market hasn’t — for example, two bedroom townhouses." While the initial registries for both rental and ownership close tomorrow, people can still register any time after Oct. 31 — they just might not be as high on the list. "We’ve had a lot of positive feedback on the lists," Wake said. "Everyone seems to think this is a fairer system." There will be more employee housing projects available for occupancy some time next year, including the private 19 Mile Creek development and likely the WHA’s Lorimer Road project. The Lorimer site is now preloaded, hoarding is up and some trees have been moved and replanted. Site servicing will begin in the spring. Meanwhile, the WHA is also wrapping up work on another housing video, which it hopes to make available in the next few weeks.

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