Phoenix put to rest 

Temporary housing project cancelled; local businesses scramble to find alternative accommodation

click to enlarge Jobs Yes, Beds No Accommodation is a bigger obstacle this year for resort workers, such as these Whistler-Blackcomb applicants at a past job fair. Phoenix would have provided 308 temporary beds to employers.
  • Jobs Yes, Beds No Accommodation is a bigger obstacle this year for resort workers, such as these Whistler-Blackcomb applicants at a past job fair. Phoenix would have provided 308 temporary beds to employers.

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According to statistics collected by the WHA, the number of unrestricted rental units available for rent during the week of Aug. 23 has decreased substantially since 2004. Particularly, in 2006 there were 260 units listed, in 2007 there were 78 units, and this year there were only 40 units.

Zucht added that while a 111-bed WHA rental unit near Nesters will be reopened this year, the housing situation is still going to be tough.

“Every bed helps for sure, but the demand is still so much stronger than the inventory we have out there,” said Zucht.

Joey Gibbons, owner of four bars in Whistler and the biggest participant in the Phoenix project with 50 beds, said now that the project has been cancelled, his company will “just have to get really creative” to get through the next winter.

“I’ll have to explore other options, whether it be locally or in Pemberton or Squamish,” said Gibbons.

“We’ll just have to figure it out as we go and sit down and do what we can do.”

Gibbons added that while historically his company has not had accommodation issues, he signed up for beds in Phoenix because he realized how tough the rental market was becoming in Whistler.

Whistler-Blackcomb, the second largest participant in Phoenix, also hopes to operate efficiently without Phoenix, said Good.

“We are as well off as we were last year, and last year was a record year. It is just that we wanted, for us and the community, to lighten some of the pressure so people could find a bed more easily,” he said.

Good said Whistler-Blackcomb’s revamped recruiting strategy, where the bulk of full time employees are hired overseas before arriving in Whistler, should help reduce the November housing rush.

He added that Whistler-Blackcomb is also combining jobs to “better utilize our beds.” For example, a 24-hour-a-week retail job might be joined with a 24-hour-a-week food and beverage job, he said.

Other businesses are trying to proactively secure other accommodation. Pradeep Puri, general manager of the Hilton Whistler Resort and Spa, said for the past three weeks, the Hilton has advertised in local newspapers that they are willing to offer landlords a two-year contract with a guarantee to cover all damages.

He added: “Obviously I am disappointed that this thing has fallen through, but the community’s efforts are commendable for trying until the last moment.”

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