Intrawest to sell employee housing 

Will leaseback properties over 20 years

Intrawest is currently negotiating the sale of three staff housing properties, which they will then lease back from a Vancouver owner in order to house their employees.

The properties, which will be put up for sale, are the Park residences near Base II on Blackcomb, the Brio Employee residence and the Westside employee residence, which is near Les Deux Gros Restaurant.

In total the residences house about 1,200 Whistler-Blackcomb employees.

"Sale-leaseback is something that companies often do to free up cash," said Lisa Landry, manager of fiscal planning for the municipality.

"Our intention is that the employee housing covenants remain on title."

The current deal worked out with Intrawest and the municipality means that the company will lease the buildings as staff housing for 20 years.

If Intrawest does not pay its rent or the owner forgoes the mortgage payments, the lender will step in to attempt to sell the property with the employee-housing covenant for 90 days.

"If the RMOW was at all concerned, they have the option to purchase," said Landry.

In that event the municipality will only be required to pay the outstanding amount of the mortgage.

"It’s very motivating for the owner to never let it go into default," said Landry.

She said there is a "very small" chance that the staff housing will lose its employee-housing covenant with the municipality.

Russell Tibbles, director of development, employee housing with Whistler-Blackcomb said the sale is not designed to risk an already critical employee housing issue in Whistler.

"The goal is not to put the covenants at risk," he said.

"There are all kinds of safeguards."

He added that if the mortgage were defaulted it would be a windfall for the municipality just to pay the rest of the mortgage on the residences.

The three building complexes will be operated in the same way as they have been in the past.

Whistler-Blackcomb will be the landlord and the owner will be a Vancouver company called Westwind Apartments Ltd.

Tibbles said Intrawest has every intention of entering into a new 20-year lease contract once the first one runs its course.

The Glacier residences went up in the late ’80s and early ’90s. The Brio residence was inherited with the purchase of Whistler Mountain and the Westside residence went up only last year.

There are nine buildings in total.

Council passed a resolution on Monday night to endorse the deal between the municipality, Intrawest, the purchaser and the lender.

Councillor Ken Melamed opposed the resolution.

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