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Affordable seniors' rental housing project planned for Rainbow

Four WHA projects now underway in Whistler



A new 20-unit, affordable housing project for seniors is in the works in Rainbow.

A request for proposals was issued on March 11 by the Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) and BC Housing, and will close on April 11.

The project — planned for 8350 Bear Paw Trail, otherwise known as Lot 10 — is being funded in part by a $2 million grant from BC Housing.

The remaining construction costs will be financed.

"The WHA has been working with the Mature Action Community (MAC) for quite a few years now to try to get a seniors-targeted project off the ground, so with the funding being made available from BC Housing it's really been a great impetus to try and move this project forward," said Marla Zucht, executive director of the WHA.

Rent for the new building will be in line with existing WHA inventory — studios in the $775 range and two-bedrooms for up to $1,500.

The building will be designed with "aging-in-place features" in mind, but won't necessarily be restricted to seniors, Zucht said.

"Initially, if they weren't able to be filled by seniors then we would be looking at the rest of the workforce as well," she said, adding that the WHA waitlists for renting and purchasing have about 500 names each.

And that's one of the big selling points of the project, said Bob Calladine, MAC's appointee to the WHA board.

"What happens then is that if (a unit becomes available), it then is first offered to seniors again, and there may be somebody available," he said.

"Or if there isn't then it goes back into the WHA pool again, so there's never any wasted space in any way shape or form, and that from the Whistler perspective is what everybody is looking for."

Calladine said the project would be discussed at MAC's annual general meeting at the end of April.

Seniors, defined as those 55 and over in Whistler, interested in renting units in the new building should contact MAC directly —

Another WHA project is also in the works at 1020 Legacy Way in Cheakamus Crossing.

The project is in the early design stages, and is expected to add another 20 units to the inventory.

"What's also really exciting about that project is we're looking to develop it as a Passiv Haus apartment building, which would be the first Passiv Haus multi-family building outside of the Lower Mainland," Zucht said.

The two new projects, combined with two others currently under construction on Cloudburst Drive in Cheakamus Crossing, are expected to equate to about 250 new resident-restricted beds coming online in the next few years.

With less than $500,000 left in the WHA reserves for capital projects, all new developments (like the two now being designed in Cheakamus and Rainbow) will have to be financed.

The WHA will also continue to seek assistance from the provincial and federal governments with new housing projects.

Meanwhile, the Mayor's Task Force on Resident Housing continues to chip away at the issue on a broader scale.

The latest initiative from the task force is a Housing Needs Survey — community members will have a chance to complete it online starting on April 10.