September 24, 2004 Features & Images » Feature Story

The once and future housing solution 

New chair Nick Davies discusses the opportunities, priorities and directions for the Whistler Housing Authority

There is $5 million in the fund, 400 applicants on the waitlist and a 300-acre land bank to build employee housing.

Without a doubt, Whistler has set the stage to deliver employee housing to the community.

But, the way to do it still remains unclear

"The concern I have is that if we don’t start wrapping our minds around this, there’s going to be some public pressure," said Councillor Nick Davies, new chair of the Whistler Housing Authority.

Last week, the waitlist to purchase WHA housing topped 400 applicants – the longest it has ever been.

All of those applicants, which represent more than 800 community members, have pre-approved mortgages in hand and are waiting to buy employee housing when the right opportunity arises. They have been told that the wait for housing could be more than two years, if not much longer.

Meanwhile this summer, the WHA sold off their Nordic Court rental building and replenished the housing fund with approximately $5 million.

Like it has in the past, the fund can be leveraged by the WHA to build housing units.

For example, between 1997 and 2002, roughly $6.5 million was used in the fund to build 144 units in the community.

Along with the money, the municipality now has land.

During the Olympic Bid process, Whistler successfully negotiated a 300-acre land bank legacy to be used for employee housing.

Part of the legacy will be used to build the Olympic Athletes Village in the south end of town, which will ultimately turn into housing for the community after 2010. The rest of the land bank however can be used for other employee housing projects in the interim.

Council received an extensive housing report, produced earlier this year, which highlights a number of privately held lands and some small pieces of Crown land suitable for employee housing.

Estimating the housing capacity on the top 33 sites, the report shows that even if 20 per cent of this land was developed, it could produce almost 1,700 resident housing units.

An additional 13 sites were categorized as small infill sites and road ends that could yield small amounts of housing.

And so, there’s little doubt that the Whistler Housing Authority is at a unique place in its seven-year history.

The demand for housing is unquestionable. The land is ready for the taking. The money is at the municipality’s disposal.

By all accounts, there is also the political will to house 75 per cent of the workforce within the resort boundaries.

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