Skyrocketing home prices mean fewer rental suites available 

A new report from the Whistler Housing Authority outlines the problem and offers some solutions

High real estate values are eroding the supply of suites in Whistler homes, says a new report from the Whistler Housing Authority.

As the WHA moves into a new era its Overview 2002 report says the community must find "creative and effective ways to mitigate this process and to replace, within the private sector, what is lost."

The report will be introduced to council June 3 at the regularly scheduled meeting (7 p.m. council chambers at municipal hall).

Part of the housing erosion problem lies with the buyers of Whistler homes. Often they don’t have a mortgage and so don’t need rental income from tenants.

In other cases homes are re-developed and the suite is removed, taking important accommodation options out of the pool.

At the same time the WHA has used-up the housing fund in the construction of several employee restricted housing communities.

While the WHA housing units address the needs of many locals there will still be many who need to rent in the private sector as high real estate values and low wages put buying a home out of the reach of many.

"We are already past the time where anyone working here can buy a home at market value," said Tim Wake, general manager of the WHA.

"The time when locals bought single family homes is over."

That truth has put one of the founding beliefs of the WHA in peril – the need to have a large proportion of locals living in the community in which they work.

"That balance is in jeopardy," said Wake.

"So we have had to look at ways to mitigate that loss."

One way, said Wake, is to build more housing.

It’s been two years since the authority produced its last report. Since then Beaver Flats has joined residential housing neighbourhoods such as 19 Mile Creek, and Nesters Pond to provide quality affordable housing.

More recently the first and second phase of Bear Ridge, an Intrawest project in Spring Creek, sold out and will be ready for the new owners in the spring of 2003.

The third phase of this development is in the planning stages.

And it looks like the Callaghan Valley will be the site of the new community land bank, an area given by the province to the municipality for community development. This will also provide a future place for new employee-restricted housing.

All of this building is well and good said Wake but it isn’t the only answer, especially when you take into consideration the community’s goals on sustainability.

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