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Glut of employee housing by 2010 raises concerns

500 new units on the books for next five years, but costs continue to increase

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And, he asks, would a family currently living in a three-bedroom employee housing unit be able to spend an extra $250,000 to move up into a single family employee housing unit?

"I don’t believe we have the answers to these questions," said Munro.

He added that Whistler should know those answers by mid-August before the two major developments get council’s final approval.

"If we don’t do this right this will have major implications not only for the community financially but also in terms of people’s expectations on housing," said Munro.

"I think we could definitely find over the next couple of years 500 people, or families, to buy these properties. But they need to be the right type and they need to be sold at the right price."

No one is more aware of that than WHA general manager Marla Zucht, who is in charge of the organization that manages not only the employee housing rental units but also the purchase units.

The waitlist has just been updated and is sitting at more than 500 separate applications. Every year, she said, 100 more applications come into the WHA. The list is growing all the time, particularly when new projects come on the horizon. At the same time there are roughly 100 applicants on the waitlist who would like to move from their existing employee housing units into a bigger unit, freeing up more inventory in the existing stock.

The bulk of the waitlist applicants are pre-approved for mortgages in the range of $150,000 to $350,000.

And while 500 new units in five years is certainly bucking the past trends which saw about 40 new units added to the inventory a year, Zucht said they won’t all be coming on at once. The Rainbow development will be sold in three phases, and the athletes’ village could be sold through pre-sales in the years leading up to the Games.

"I think that if we hit that (appropriate) mix of units there will certainly be less risk of a problem for absorption," she said. "I think there still is a strong enough demand."

She does not believe there is a need to canvass the waitlist through an independent third party as waitlisters must disclose their financial information and get pre-approved with a mortgage broker before getting on the list.

"It’s a good news thing that we are actually getting this many locals housing units coming on," she said. "It’s something that we should be embracing, not being scared of."

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