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First Person: Tim Wake

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What we think is most critical right now, what we think we’re behind on, is the short-term rental housing.

Pique: Let’s talk about potential sites for this housing. Is the answer in the land bank, specifically the Callaghan?

Wake: There are plenty of opportunities on both public and private land that could conceivably be used for some form of restricted housing. They’ve all got problems. I think the Callaghan and the Lower Cheakamus are great sites. They’re likely going to be part of the solution but they’re certainly not all the solution. And I think we need to look hard at some other opportunities, perhaps crown land opportunities that are closer in. Because part of what we want to preserve here is that critical mass that’s centred in the core of town, in the core of our community.

And it goes without saying that all this needs to be balanced off against our sustainability plan. That is going to be the big lens through which we view this entire process.

Pique: There are some that think we shouldn’t be subsidizing housing. Why should we have it here ?

Wake: First of all I think we should be careful with the word "subsidized." We call it restricted housing and basically we’re using some tools to bring it in at a lower price. And you could suggest that the community is making a form of a subsidy to create it but it’s a one-time effort to create it and then it looks after itself. The rent covers the operation and the maintenance and the taxes on that housing so once it’s operating there is no further subsidy. All this housing generates tax revenues. Cheap land or unzoned land that gets zoned for employee housing is the subsidy.

We need it here because the reality is that the market is going to be less and less capable of delivering solutions that will work for employees, and we can see that happening. With no restricted housing, our resident workforce today might be 7,000 and on the decline

Pique: Do you think there’s a stigma in town attached to restricted housing?

Wake: I would suggest that there has been but it’s a stigma that is evaporating. It’s a stigma that’s slowly vanishing and it’s vanishing because almost everybody who works in Whistler now has friends who live in restricted housing. And most of the people who live in restricted housing love it and it takes a huge burden off of them, the burden of what am I going to do? It may not be everything they wanted in housing but it’s very secure, it’s their own, and they have control over it and they can get on with their lives and forget that huge hurdle of stress. There was a time when I saw the perception of it as a problem but I don’t see it as a problem anymore. And the more we do it, the more comfortable everybody gets with it.