WHA board elects new chair 

Michael Hutchison brings experience in affordable housing

Michael Hutchison feels like he's standing on the shoulders of the trailblazers before him as he takes the helm of the Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) board this week.

"They've created the best affordable housing strategy in Canada," he said Tuesday, the day after accepting the position of chairman.

Those trailblazers have set a very strong foundation for affordable housing, so strong, says Hutchison, that many communities want to emulate what Whistler has done.

"I know it's not perfect but it's been extremely successful," said Hutchison of the WHA program.

He replaces former councillor Gordon McKeever, who remained with the board after leaving office along with Councillor Tim Wake, for a six-month period following November's election to ease the transition to a new board. Neither McKeever nor Wake sought re-election last year.

Those council representatives have been replaced by Councillors Grant Lamont and Chris Quinlan.

Hutchison has been one of the WHA's Community at Large board directors for the past two years. He has been living in Whistler for the past 20 years. More recently he has been focused on building some large-scale affordable housing projects in Squamish.

Closer to home he said the WHA is heading into a period of more stability in the years to come.

After its period of explosive growth and the development of thousands of beds since 1997, the WHA is looking to settle into its role as of the creator and manager of price controlled rental and purchase units in the resort.

"It's getting to a place where it's more stable and it's going to grow in a more measured way," he said.

The long waitlist for housing has been growing over the years as the value of market housing in the resort continued to soar.

There was a time when any housing employee housing development was snapped up within hours of being offered to the waitlist.

Most recently, hundreds of waitlisters have bought into the two latest and largest price and employee restricted developments - the athletes' village at Cheakamus Crossing and Rainbow.

There are still units remaining at both developments, though the athletes' village is close to 90 per cent sold.

Once those owners take possession of the units, the WHA waitlist could look much different.

Hutchison also points out that though the WHA is an arm's length municipal organization, it is still very much controlled by council.

The mayor and two councillors sit on the board as well as Lisa Landry, general manager of economic viability.

"The board is fundamentally controlled by council," said Hutchison, adding that it's a good thing because those are the elected officials.

He also praised Gord McKeever's work as chair saying: "Gord did an excellent job as chairman of the board. He put in a lot of effort over a long period of time."

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