Trailer park costs come in on target 

Several hurdles still to cross before temporary housing becomes reality

click to enlarge Business Helping Business Tom Horler, co-chair of the task force aimed to find solutions to the seasonal housing shortage stands on the site at the old highways work yard, which currently lies empty. The site is owned by First Nations. It was selected because it's flat, serviced and close to the village. Photo by Alison Taylor.
  • Business Helping Business Tom Horler, co-chair of the task force aimed to find solutions to the seasonal housing shortage stands on the site at the old highways work yard, which currently lies empty. The site is owned by First Nations. It was selected because it's flat, serviced and close to the village. Photo by Alison Taylor.

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“It’s the only way to house people cheap enough,” he said.

Seasonal workers are looking for a safe place to sleep and store their gear, he added.

“They want it as cheap as possible so they don’t have to work three jobs.”

He is currently under-staffed by roughly half a dozen employees. That could force him to close his stores in the middle of the day.

“Once again there will be less services for the guests,” he sighed.

That being said, Lamond was reticent to support the trailer camp idea as a year-round concept. The housing crunch happens every year from November to April.

His suggestion then is that whoever is running the trailer project, be it the Whistler Housing Authority or the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, needs to run it like a business and charge accordingly to break even, though that could mean renting it for higher rents in the winter, and cheaper rents in the summer.

“If they have to operate like the rest of the world does, within a budget, without any subsidy… like every other homeowner in Whistler does, then that’s fine,” said Lamond.

For Greg McDonnell, supervisor of community youth outreach for the Whistler Community Services Society, the preliminary cost estimates are welcome news.

“It’s a great sign because it’s the only choice I think we have,” he said.

“I don’t know that there’s going to be land, financial resources or building resources to build anything else prior to the Olympics and if this situation is facing us now, (the trailers are) literally, I think, our only option.

“What are the other options? I don’t know of any and a lot of good minds have come together to try to figure that out.”

This winter he’s seeing landlords charging exorbitant rents. Other renters are leasing space to their friends, be it on the hall landing or beside the hot water tank, at a premium.

Dozens more are living in B&Bs and hostels and though they have jobs and want to stay they may be forced to leave town because they cannot find a more permanent place to call home for the season.

“The market is willing to bear it but it just seems criminal,” said McDonnell.

The idea for a trailer park was sparked again recently after business owners met for a brainstorming session over the seasonal housing crisis.

“I understand that it may not be the most popular choice but the community needs to have that debate because we’re at a loss to what we’re going to do during the worst housing crunch that I’ve seen here ever,” said Forsyth. “I don’t see suites opening up. We haven’t gotten any traction with what we all thought was a great idea with the H.O.M.E. matching program. And we’re not going to build our way out of it. We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.”

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