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First Person:

Pat Kelly

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Like many others who settled in Whistler, Pat Kelly’s story begins with a temporary ski stint here just to figure things out.

The year was 1980. He had just graduated from university in Vancouver. And he had a degree in real estate law and finance.

Little did he know that a job as a Christmas party bartender for one of Whistler’s three real estate companies would set the stage for the next 23 years.

Kelly has been a Whistler real estate agent since 1980. Two years ago he became the sole owner of The Whistler Real Estate Company Ltd. Over the last 23 years he’s observed the Whistler market closely, and has strong opinions about it.

He’s adamant that Whistler cannot be a world-class ski resort and still have house prices on par with a typical Canadian town of 10,000 people.

"If you want this then you have to accept that," he says.

The President of Whistler Real Estate spoke candidly to the Pique about the recent property assessments, expanding the valley beyond the Official Community Plan and the community’s misconception of so-called "trophy homes."

Pique: The recent municipal election has shone a bright light on the housing situation in Whistler, a situation in which more and more people are moving away because they can no longer afford to live here. Why is this such a contentious issue?

Kelly: I think this is a contentious issue because of our history. We’ve grown very rapidly from a very small town of 1,500 people when I arrived here to a town of 10,000 people, which in most people’s minds is still a small town. And yet, the town itself is a world class ski resort, which is driven by forces outside of the town. For most of us our concept of a small town is that it’s affordable and it’s an easy thing to be a part of and you know your neighbours. We’re not there. We’re what we wanted to become and there’s had to be a tradeoff, which some people have not been comfortable with. On top of that, the cost of real estate and the cost of living here has gone up far faster than incomes have and so some people have been left behind in terms of the economic model. It’s disappointing to be part of something as exciting as this and realize that you’ve been left behind by forces that are out of your control.

Also, I think over the years that I’ve been here there seems to be this expectation that you should be able to live right next door to where you work… but I’m not sure that’s reality anywhere so why would it be reality here? It’s almost like a sense of entitlement that we’ve grown up with that we should be able to live right next door to the mountains. I guess 25 years ago we could. But 25 years ago we didn’t have two mountains, 15 hotels and 40 restaurants and all of the things that we do have, so things change. To try to be what we were and what we are at the same time is impossible.

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