WHA plan calls for 1,000 new employee beds by 2005 

Through 20 years of building employee housing, every project has come about differently

In the battle to house the bulk of its workers Whistler is still holding relatively strong according to Tim Wake, general manager of the Whistler Housing Authority.

In recent years the total Whistler workforce during the winter season has risen steadily, to roughly 14,200 people in the 2001/02 season.

In the meantime the number of workers living in the resort has stayed roughly the same, at around 10,500 people. This trend is echoed in the figures from the winter of 2002/03, which have yet to be made public said Wake.

"(This) suggests that the current rate at which we’re creating restricted housing opportunities is compensating for the housing that we’re losing in the market," said Wake.

And yet, every day at least two applications, complete with pre-approved mortgages, are added to the growing WHA wait list for resident-restricted housing.

At Tuesday’s council meeting Wake presented the WHA’s Business Plan 2003-2007.

Among the highlights of the plan was the WHA’s commitment to deliver almost 1,000 new employee beds by the fall of 2005. Half are from projects that have been approved but not built and the other half are from projects in the pipeline waiting for approval.

To reach this end, Wake said the WHA must work very closely with the private sector to deliver the housing and encourage the creation of employee housing with all new rezonings.

"I think everyone understands now that you’re not going to get any zoning without community benefits and one of the principle community benefits that council raises, usually the first one, is housing," said Wake at an earlier meeting.

But Councillor Ken Melamed said this is only part of the solution. He said the WHA Business Plan does not effectively address other solutions to stem the tide of people cashing out and moving on. This bleeding of market housing is putting more and more pressure on restricted housing.

He suggested the WHA should be looking at more ways to protect the existing stock of market housing, developing strategies to address tear downs and upsizing, both of which are affecting employee housing.

There is still no true figure representing how much market housing is lost each year; there’s only a notion that things are changing in the marketplace. WHA estimates point to roughly 100 employee beds disappearing each year.

Wake said the WHA has been given a $10,000 grant to look at the bleeding of the market housing and gain a more accurate picture of what’s actually going on.

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