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Creativity is sign of the times for house hunting in resort

Polish robotics engineers takes to the slopes to find a home

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A Polish robotics engineer has drawn on his gift for invention to find a home in Whistler's difficult housing market.

Marek Maeusiak strapped a sign to his body with his phone number and email with a goal of finding someone — anyone — with a room.

The idea was inspired by the signs used by actual homeless people, he said.

At first, he printed off paper and affixed it with safety pins to his jacket and wore it around the village. Then he realized there were "tons of people" on the hill.

"So I made generation two (of the sign) — which was waterproof," said Maeusiak. He captioned the sign: "Looking for home."

Maeusiak said his sign generated some good leads. A ski instructor posted a photo of him in a Facebook group, and a Polish woman who was leaving Whistler also reached out to him with an offer of assistance, but no one offered him a home.

"I got really quick responses from a lot of people, making photos, or saying, 'I will pass it to my friend who is probably renting something,'" said Maeusiak.

In the end, a room opened up in a house he rented over the summer. At $1,200, it's not exactly a great deal — and it's in a home shared by six people.But Maeusiak figured it was worth taking, as struggling to find housing is time consuming and expensive.

"That's a lot — but what can you do?" he said. "It's a lot of effort to find a place."

Maeusiak left a good job in Poland to come to Whistler, drawn by his love of mountain biking.

He's had a great time. So much so that he refused an engineering job that was waiting for him in order to stay on in Whistler.

"I'm not bothered by typical-life problems. It's really beautiful around here. Clean air, mountains — you can ski every day." 

Life, he explained, is expensive and difficult. But in the end, he gets to do the things he'd be saving up to do if he were in Poland.

"While you're here, you might not do ambitious jobs. But eventually it's the same," said Maeusiak.

"When you're in town you work hard just to be here, on your vacation. I didn't want to go back to the so-called regular life, saving money for retirement... I can do that later."

The start of winter is a notoriously difficult time to find housing and with the resort experiencing one of the fastest populations growths in B.C. accommodation is at a premium. Whister has 13.5 per cent more working age people than the B.C. average according to the Community Foundation of Whistler's Vital Signs Report.

According to the latest municipal satisfaction survey seasonal residents are much less satisfied with the housing than are permanent residents — on average rent prices suck up over 50 per cent of most earners' annual income.

Maeusiak's experience reflects the difficulties faced by many.

"It is frustrating," he said. "Finding a place for a winter at this time of year — from my experience, (it) is just luck." 

His advice for the others: "Don't give up. Keep looking for a place. Be smart." 

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