Housing task force’s enthusiasm infectious 

After a month of discussions a municipal housing task force has come up with a vision that would see an employee suite in every Whistler home.

If homes don’t have a suite then they should be contributing to resident housing in some other way, said David McColm in a presentation of the task force’s report to council on Monday night.

The task force prepared a list of recommendations based on a series of non-cost housing initiatives developed and prepared by RMOW staff and the Whistler Housing Authority.

The initiatives are intended to encourage the creation of more resident housing and discourage the loss of affordable resident housing.

McColm called the recommendations are just the tip of the iceberg.

"But they’re a very important tip," said McColm.

After listening to the task force report, Councillor Caroline Lamont said the vision should be a part of the municipality’s Comprehensive Sustainability Plan, the document intended to replace Whistler’s Official Community Plan, which charts the community’s future.

"There’s good momentum behind this and I hope this continues," she added.

Among the recommendations was a suggestion to allow the creation of employee suites above detached garages, particularly in hilly neighbourhoods like Alpine and Emerald where the topography of the area lends itself to detached garages without ruining the character of the neighbourhood. The task force was also supportive of an idea to allow cottages or "granny suites" on some of the larger lots for employee housing.

By insisting the "granny suites" and the suites above garages are for employee housing, the task force wants to ensure that they do not go into the nightly accommodation pool, which would defeat its main goal of creating more resident housing.

On the other hand, the task force recommended that the municipality allow a bonus density of up to 600 square feet in some homes for the creation of an employee-restricted suite. Unlike the suites over the garages or the cottages on the lots, these suites would have a covenant and would be regulated by the Whistler Housing Authority.

There would be some restrictions with this recommendation, namely the homes could not exceed the 0.35 FSR (floor space ratio to lot size) with the bonus density. But staff estimated there may be at least 600 homes in Whistler, which could take advantage of this recommendation.

"There’s still enough out there that we feel people might want to take advantage of this," said McColm.

The task force also suggested allowing large lots to be divided into two separate lots, with one of those lots dedicated to employee housing. McColm said that panhandle lots are prime candidates for this type of resolution.

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