Pique n' Your Interest 

You wouldn’t believe me unless you were forced to try it

This is a yarn about the desperate need for more employee housing.

Firstly, I’ll admit that my house finding mission started too close to the winter season but I had no choice because there was a possibility that I was going to have to leave Canada. As it turned out, I didn’t have to leave and so began my mission to find some long-term accommodation.

But it wasn’t long before I realized this would not be a mission to find a home, it would be a rude awakening through which I would experience, and hear a lot about, bigotry, stupidity and utter desperation.

As with any house hunt it started with the phone and e-mail, and I work at the Pique so it’s not like I ever got the classified advertisements late.

During the first week of my mission I made about 25 calls – one person got back to me. This person wanted me to sign a one-year lease – even though I had no idea who he was and vice versa – in a house where we would use the same front door to go in and out and there was no kitchen. He said they had a "kitchenette" but it wasn’t a kitchen, and there was no where to sit down and eat.

The price: $750 a month and he had had 250 phone calls about it in three days! I decided it was too small, but I’m sure someone else signed the papers by 10 a.m. the next day.

Back to the phone and the e-mail. It wasn’t long before my price limit went out the window and I was calling anyone who had anything below $950, despite the fact that I could not afford anything near this price.

Then, at about 9:30 p.m. on a Tuesday, I cottoned onto a great house in a nice location. I turned up and the sub-letter was interviewing someone else about the room. Then he sits down and tells me that he’s had a couple offer him about $400 more than the advertised price of the apartment. This means that this sub-letter gets to live in Whistler basically for free because he happened to be in charge of the lease when someone moved out of an apartment.

Not surprisingly, he called me back and said he’d given the room to the couple. Back to the e-mail and phone calls.

At this point I was willing to live with a couple of giraffes and dead rhino for $250 a night, so I called everything that’s available in Whistler. No one calls or e-mails back, so I call again. Then finally a woman picks up the phone and says "yes, we’ve got a room… but we usually like to rent to Japanese."

I thought that was a little weird because I lived in a place during summer and our landlord wanted us out before winter so he could attract some Japanese nationals.

The women went on, "you know, Japanese are very respectful and they don’t party as much as the Australians or French Canadians or the British and they’re used to the small spaces."

I didn’t flinch at this point but I did think to myself that if I was in a foreign country and most of my friends didn’t speak the language I’d be pretty quiet and respectful too. I also wondered what would happen to all the bars in town if there were suddenly no young Aussies, Quebecois or Brits visiting because they couldn’t find places to live.

Anyway, I was desperate so I asked, "how small are the spaces?"

And she says: "We’ve got 16 people in right now in bunks, so you wouldn’t be able to bring much stuff."

I really didn’t care so I told her I’d like to have a look. She said great, call back in 30 minutes.

Fifteen minutes later her husband calls back when I’m in bathroom and leaves a message that says, "sorry the place is already rented, but we’ve got another house in Pemberton".

Back to the phone and e-mail, where I find that there is nothing left.

This might have changed by the time this is published, but at one point there was not one advertised room left for rent in all of Whistler – not one.

The final straw occurred when I had somebody tell me they wanted $1,200 per room in their three-bedroom house, and then I received a letter from a kid, obviously fresh off the boat, who said he agreed with something I’d written in the Pique. In his letter he said, "I have applied at a number of places and have been turned down.

"One such place told me not to even bother applying… accommodation is another major issue, I am Australian and it seems that when an owner hears my accent they decline from renting me property.

"I have come to Whistler because I have heard so many wonderful things about this place, but it looks as if I will be going home without experiencing it."

Then another group of old friends call me and say they’re headed to Vancouver to stay because there was no room left in a hostel in Whistler.

Meantime, while this is all going on I go back to the phones and e-mails.

Then my friends start to work their contact lists and I get two leads. One of these leads works out so now, after two solid months of looking, I have a small place to live in.

During this ridiculous journey I also listened to many stories from homeowners who have told me about some of the terrible things people have done to their houses. The Quebecois got a particularly bad wrap. But I’d be willing to bet my new condo that most of these kids would be okay if they had some affordable options.

And affordable means no more than $350-$450 a month (including hydro and cable) each to live in a space.

So RMOW, WHA and the "expeditor", a.k.a. Steve Bayly – I know you know that this kind of stuff happens but it’s time to take some action. And when I say action I mean at the next council meeting I’d love to hear somebody say something like, "first, second and third reading for construction to start on the employee housing on these small plots of land we’ve been talking about for a month."

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