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Finding home still difficult

Chamber, community team up to solve mid-winter housing crunch

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Massage therapist Camille Dunn said she decided to come to work in Whistler this winter because friends had told her Whistler is “the biggest, the best and the funnest ski resort in the world.” And although the Queensland, Australia native quickly found work here after arriving Dec. 19, finding accommodation has not been so easy.

Dunn shares a furnished one-bedroom condo in Whistler Cay with ski instructor Casey Cramant, who arrived from the U.K. the same day as Dunn. The two women, who met while staying at Southside hostel, pay $1,150 for the short-term sublet apartment that they have to vacate Jan. 31. They say they’ve gone beyond just searching newspaper listings for a place to live: every day they ask friends, co-workers, and strangers for leads on accommodation.

Whistler Chamber of Commerce president Louise Lundy said that’s the way to find a place to live in Whistler this winter.

“Don’t just look in the paper, try to make as many connections as possible, even ask your employer if they or their friends have a room available.”

Lundy and 15 other business leaders are working on a plan for how best to help seasonal workers find affordable, short-term accommodation in Whistler. An offshoot of the Shoestring project, spearheaded by businessman Tom Horler, which organized immediate places to stay for workers while they job-searched this fall, the chamber has taken up the call by employers concerned about housing staff.

Lundy said the short-term key is to convince locals to open up their homes to seasonal workers. But addressing homeowners’ fears about possible downsides of temporary workers is a challenge that was discussed by the Housing Our Many Employees (HOME) project at their first meeting this month.

“I think that what it takes is to come up with really good community strategies that show how we could provide guarantees,” Lundy said.

Youth services worker Greg McDonnell is a HOME project member. He suggests the municipality appoint a housing ombudsperson to regulate rental agreements between landlords and tenants, and that might pave the path to locals opening up their homes.

“There’s a tremendous benefit to having residents rent out rooms: a sense of community that happens and newcomers get a sense that people in this community want to help,” McDonnell said.

Councillor Ralph Forsyth also sits on the committee that will meet again Feb. 6 and would like to see some immediate solutions for those newcomers like Dunn and Cramant.

“The big picture stuff is what we want to look at… but what is at the top of mind for us is the problem right now and what can we do in the next 30 days.”

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