Balking at the price of a new seniors housing complex at Rainbow, council has now decided to take on the project itself.
Its last minute decision, made in a closed-door meeting last week, flies in the face of not only municipal staff's recommendations but also against support from the Mature Action Committee (MAC), which has long been lobbying for seniors housing in Whistler.
"I was surprised and disappointed, no question about it, because we have been working on this project for a long time," said MAC president Gord Leidal.
"We thought it was a great project."
The project, called The Woods, was slated for the heart of the new Rainbow subdivision.
Developer Rod Nadeau proposed a two-building project on Lots 10 and 11 that would mix both price-restricted and market seniors housing together.
The design was done in consultation with MAC members over the course of a year and a half.
The average price for a restricted unit in the apartment buildings was $370 per square foot.
"We rejected that pricing," said Chris Quinlan, speaking on behalf of council.
"That product wasn't something that will allow us to achieve our goal of the housing authority and that is that we want people to be able to transition through their entire time in Whistler inside of WHA (Whistler Housing Authority) inventory."
He explained that while some seniors may be able to sell market lots and buy a seniors' home at $370 per square foot, those moving through price- restricted WHA product would have difficulty buying in at a price that high.
"I think the majority of the people on MAC that are willing to purchase at that level are able to cash out of the place that they've had for 20 or 30 years. And what we're really looking towards is the future," said Quinlan.
He pointed to the new WHA apartment building at the athletes' village (Cheakamus Crossing) that came in at roughly $260 per square foot. Like Rainbow's $370 per square foot price, that athletes' village price does not include the price of the serviced land.
But developer Rod Nadeau takes issue with that comparison, saying that the athletes' village wasn't just built on free serviced land but had other subsidies too. Specifically, there were contributions from Olympic organizers and the municipality totaling about $45 million. As well, more than $30 million from the sale of market lots and townhouses will subsidize the employee housing.
Rainbow, by comparison, was given residential zoning as part of its development approval to help subsidize the cost of developing the mainly employee housing subdivision.