Resident restricted unit at Gondola Village raising ire of property owners 

WHA board to review case, present position

Gondola Village owners are angry that the Whistler Housing Authority has acquired a unit in their Creekside complex for employee housing.

"Our owners are outraged," said Ross Ruddick, strata chair of the Gondola Village Strata Corporation in a presentation at Monday’s council meeting.

"We do not accept that it is fair, equitable or balanced."

Instead the strata would like council to direct the WHA to stop buying units in Gondola Village and selling them to employees at a restricted price.

About two months ago the owner of a large single-family home in Taluswood, who was required under a covenant to build an employee suite in the house, bought a unit at Gondola Village instead.

The unit cost the Taluswood owner $250,000 and was later sold to a Whistler resident on the WHA list for $87,000. That unit is now permanently in the WHA pool of housing for Whistler residents.

Ruddick said there’s now anecdotal evidence from realtors that potential buyers are walking away from sales in the complex.

Over the past few weeks, asking prices in their complex have declined he said and homeowners believe there will be severe repercussions on the market value homes in the future.

It’s not that they don’t agree with providing employee housing in Whistler, rather its the perception that with employee housing in Gondola Village, the units are devalued.

"Employee housing is perceived as less than desirable in an existing complex," said Ruddick.

He further charged council with accommodating the wishes of wealthy homeowners and transferring their responsibilities "to the average Joe down the hill."

"We’re not being NIMBYs," insisted Ruddick.

"We reject the concept as a whole."

The concept came from the non-cost housing initiatives, which were adopted by council earlier this year. Those initiatives are aimed at finding ways to create more affordable resident-restricted housing in the valley and stem from the leakage of employees to other communities.

Council recognizes that they have no authority to insist Taluswood homeowners and others with a similar covenant rent out their employee suites. This covenant swap ensures the suite is rented to an employee.

But Ruddick argued just because the bylaw has no teeth does not mean the obligation of providing employee suites should fall upon lower-priced properties like Gondola Village.

Councillors stood by the covenant swap on Monday night even after Ruddick cautioned them that homeowners could take legal action against the municipality for the loss of money to their properties.

In addition he said property owners could withhold Form Bs, which are information certificates with detailed property information. These forms are relied upon by realtors and buyers and can be crucial to a buyer’s satisfaction of their property.

Councillor Nick Davies said the inflammatory language would not help the cause of Gondola Village owners and he stood by council’s decision.

"This council hasn’t done anything that’s morally or ethically wrong," he said.

Ruddick said there is no hard data in Whistler to convince homeowners that by introducing "social housing" to an existing market complex there would be no adverse affect on the market values of those units.

Councillor Marianne Wade assured him that are numerous examples of this in Vancouver.

"You’re suggesting that we should be the guinea pig in Whistler," said Ruddick.

The WHA has looked at a number of properties in the valley that could accommodate this type of covenant swap. The Tamarisk complex is another site that has been identified as a good place to put employee housing.

At a previous council meeting the president of the Tamarisk Strata Council raised concerns similar to his Gondola Village counterpart.

"We are concerned that this practice will result in lowered property values when it becomes known that these properties have been identified as good sites for restricted employee housing," wrote Tamarisk Strata Council President Ken Harvey in a letter to council.

During his presentation to council Ruddick felt faint and left the room.

Later council decided to ask the WHA board of directors to review the case and present their position to council. Mayor Hugh O’Reilly said council goes out with the best intentions and they do not mean to disenfranchise people in the process.

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