Housing demands for 2010 heat up 

Accommodation one of the main topics at town hall meeting

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Sixty thousand dollars to rent a home for one month over the Olympic period could be too much for at least one Whistler homeowner to turn down.

“I’ve been approached for 28 days,” said the homeowner, who asked not to be named.

“The money is fairly significant.”

The deal, which has not yet been signed, would mean that the home, including the one bedroom suite, would need to be vacated for the Olympic time period.

This homeowner has already approached his tenants with a proposal — vacate for a month and come back to six months free rent.

The couple, one who works in construction and the other who works in the hospitality industry, wasted no time agreeing he said, seeing the golden opportunity for a month long vacation while saving roughly $5,000 in rent upon their return.

But that means they won’t be working in Whistler during the Games. And that could be a problem for the resort.

The issue, which has been worrying resort leaders, was raised again at the Olympic town hall meeting on Saturday.

In response to questions about the accommodation, Mayor Ken Melamed issued a plea to homeowners to understand the problem and not exacerbate it.

“This is less about them and more about us and Canada,” he told the audience at Millennium Place.

“Show the world that Canadians are the gracious hosts that we are.”

In an interview later this week he admitted that $60,000 is a lot of money and hard to say no to.

“I understand the appeal,” he said. “It’s hard not to find that attractive.”

On the one hand this homeowner, like many others who have been approached, is simply taking advantage of market conditions and meeting a need that has presented itself with the Olympics. On the other hand, less homes for locals could spell disaster for a resort that needs to function at well beyond its normal busy capacity come February 2010.

The mayor cautioned that homeowners taking the short-term gain could have a negative impact on the resort in the long-term.

Olympic visitors, and more importantly, Olympic media, will be shining a spotlight on Whistler during the Games and if the story is that it’s too expensive, with no suitable accommodation and not enough workers, that could have repercussions down the road and impact business for the next 15 to 20 years.

The resort in many ways is still recovering from what the mayor called the “millennium effect” when it seemed no price was too high for Whistler guests.

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