WHA to host housing forum to answer questions, provide insight 

Employee housing sold for less than asking price

Housing authority GM Marla Zucht and board chair Gord McKeever in front of Nitat Lake employee housing site. Photo by Alison Taylor
  • Housing authority GM Marla Zucht and board chair Gord McKeever in front of Nitat Lake employee housing site. Photo by Alison Taylor

For the first time ever an employee housing unit has sold for less than its maximum resale price.

Employee housing owners have always been offered top bucks for their homes… until this week, when the owners of a Bear Ridge townhouse accepted an offer $5,000 less than the $450,000 asking price.

Whistler Housing Authority general manager Marla Zucht said the situation is a bit of an anomaly because the unit is bigger than most three-bedroom units in the inventory at 1,700 square feet.

At the same time, she’s been expecting this to happen as employee housing projects tied to the Vancouver market climb out of reach for some Whistler employees — this price-restricted unit has appreciated 47 per cent ($143,000) since it was built four years ago.

“We’ve been waiting for it and expecting it to happen,” said Zucht, of the sale which was finalized Tuesday. “This is telling us that we’re hitting the purchase price threshold for people that are on the waitlist for these units.”

This is one of the reasons why council, based on the WHA board’s recommendation, unanimously voted to standardize all appreciation formulas in the housing inventory upon resale and for any new units coming on board.

Once sold, this Bear Ridge unit will only appreciate at the Core Consumer Price Index (CPI) rate, a modest 2 per cent annually.

This appreciation is more consistent with the philosophy behind employee housing, said Zucht.

“It’s a home ownership (opportunity); it’s not an investment,” she said. “The provision of a home is more important than the return on investment. That’s foremost.

“There are trade-offs for living in this beautiful resort community.”

But to Shelley Quinn, who owns a unit in 19 Mile Creek that is also tied to the Vancouver market, it feels like the WHA is pulling out the rug from under her feet.

Quinn, along with other owners in the development, says the WHA has changed the rules of the game on them, and they’re determined to fight those changes.

“When we purchased in 19 Mile there were certain premises that were in place, such as the appreciation formula,” said Quinn.

“We were investing into a home and basically that’s being disregarded.”

The appreciation formula, unique to 19 Mile, Bear Ridge and the Beaver Flats duplexes, was a selling point for Quinn who saw it as a chance to recoup some money on their investment. They would not have bought the unit, she said, had it been tied to the CPI. In fact, they were looking in Squamish but the Vancouver appreciation formula at 19 Mile was a selling point; not only could they remain in Whistler, they could also make some money.

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