Temporary housing project clears first hurdle, barely 

H.O.M.E. proponents get go-ahead to approach manufacturers to determine costs

click to enlarge Ralph Forsyth
  • Ralph Forsyth

Many businesses around town hope a village of temporary modular homes for seasonal workers will still be a reality as early as this fall, despite a lack of secure financing or a business plan.

“It has to be ready by this fall,” said Ralph Forsyth, co-chair of the H.O.M.E. committee, a task force developed by local businesses to find a solution to Whistler‘s housing crunch.

“It takes no effort and energy to say this is too difficult. You have to make it happen yourself. If there is a general political will, we will find a way.”

The committee’s determination to get the housing ready in six months took heat from several council members this week, since only the bare bones of the project have been assembled to date.

The group has gotten confirmation from prominent businesses that the proposed units will be used for employee housing and a site has been found to locate the temporary village. However the same businesses have not yet committed money and the proposed site — located opposite Mons road — still needs to be rezoned.

At Monday’s council Meeting, councillors Bob Lorrimon and Tim Wake, along with mayor Ken Melamed, stressed that while they support the H.O.M.E. plan in principle they are hesitant to commit municipal hall to anything that might later cost taxpayers money.

“There is a history of projects being started under one set of assumptions and then eventually the municipality and the taxpayer is put on the hook for it,” said Melamed, drawing an analogy to the inconclusive Rainbow development.

“If the day comes that there is a budgetary gap to maintain the housing, then my fear is the ask is going to come to us. We can’t put the taxpayer and the community at risk.”

Melamed also said that even with the help of municipal hall, the development will likely take a year to complete. If the development is expedited, it would mark the first time that council has relaxed the current policy approach to allow temporary housing.

“We are not going to violate good planning process and procedure… Come to us with a finished plan and money in the bank. Our staff are prepared to go the extra mile, but it is not our responsibility,” he said.

Forsyth said he was disappointed with the outcome of the council meeting. The H.O.M.E. committee was hoping for more direct support from municipal hall to get the plan off the ground.

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