RMOW presents ways to create infill employee housing 

Upcoming open house lays out recommendations

There may be new opportunities for local homeowners to reap more money out of their Whistler investment while providing some much-needed employee housing.

The municipality is working on several non-cost housing initiatives designed to give homeowners more flexibility on their lots and within their homes. This will allow them to reap the benefits by selling a portion of their property or home.

"Rather than having them sell out and leave the community… what we’re talking about is ways those resident employees might be able to realize some of the value from their property and also to create a new supply of resident housing, whether it’s a lot split or a duplex or a second suite – those are the kinds of opportunities that we’re looking at right now," said Mike Kirkegaard, the municipality’s manager of community planning and sustainability.

Staff is now putting their recommendations to the community for feedback. An open house will be held on Thursday, Nov. 24 at the Spruce Grove Field House from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

The example of a lot split would allow a homeowner to subdivide their large lot and sell off a portion to a Whistler employee. The lot would not be price restricted to the Whistler Housing Authority benchmark price but it would be employee restricted, meaning it could only be sold to a resident who has lived in Whistler for two years.

With that restriction, Kirkegaard said staff believe the lot will sell for less than market price but it still makes it worthwhile for the seller to subdivide. Selling it at price-restricted rate on the other hand does not give the lot owner any incentive to subdivide.

And while that is a departure in the traditional line of thinking at municipal hall, it is still a way to provide employee housing to a niche market.

"Not everybody’s going to be able to afford it," admits Kirkegaard. "It’s just another initiative to address our resident housing needs. It’s not going to be a cure-all."

The direction, however, is consistent with Whistler 2020 in that it provides more infill opportunities in the resort and it is also designed to stem the "leakage" of residents to other communities by providing more ways for them to continue to afford to live in Whistler.

"Overall the CSP (Whistler 2020) is very supportive of infill, keeping strong neighbourhoods," said Kirkegaard. "We’ve seen a bit of a development pattern in existing neighbourhoods where ski cabins are getting purchased, knocked down and rebuilt as 3,500 square foot dwellings and typically not occupied by Whistler residents."

In addition to the lot splits, other opportunities on the table are to allow duplexes as a permitted use on property zoned for single family as well as allowing multiple suites within a home or on a property.

To date roughly 10 to 15 homeowners have expressed an interest in these opportunities and municipal staff are hoping to hear from more at the open house and get expressions of interest from those who want to pursue these opportunities further.

These non-cost initiatives are aimed at the older Whistler neighbourhoods such as Alpine, Emerald and White Gold.

"We’re not talking about big changes necessarily in density," said Kirkegaard. "It’s more about how that density is used on a site."

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