With the arrival of spring, the Resort Municipality of Whistler's (RMOW) Home Run program is starting to bear fruit.
The program — which aims to match second homeowners with local business owners to house employees — has resulted in five matches so far.
All told, 22 employees have found homes through the program — four on seasonal contracts and one for the whole year.
"We are very excited to see these matches occurring amongst local property owners and local businesses and we are optimistic that we are going to continue to see more matches occurring in the coming months that will benefit and assist our local workforce's housing needs," said Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) general manager Marla Zucht in an email.
Gord Low, owner of Mountain Country Property Management (the WHA's property manager), said the program has garnered 46 expressions of interest from homeowners and has 65 businesses signed on.
Aside from those already matched, there are three additional homeowners who have signed on to the program, and their properties are now being actively marketed to businesses.
"The demand from the businesses is really for 12-month rentals," Low said, adding that with summer just around the corner, the hope is that more homeowners will be able to offer 12-month options.
"(The program) certainly is making an impact with the uptake we've had so far. Has it met the demand yet? Well, clearly not with 65 businesses (signed on), but we're picking away at it for sure."
The Delta Whistler Village Suites was one of the first local businesses to benefit from the program, with a handful of employees moving into their new abode on May 1.
"We currently have a unit housing six of our employees and look forward to finding some additional units for this summer," said Delta general manager Jeff Kennedy in an email. "Once units were found, the process has been seamless and we would certainly recommend other businesses to enroll in the program."
The Home Run program was launched last December, and came out of the Mayor's Task Force on Resident Housing.
The task force — formed last October to tackle the RMOW's housing woes — has met three times and is currently working on a number of initiatives.
Aside from the Home Run program, the task force has increased investigations of illegal nightly rentals, moved forward on new housing projects through the WHA and conducted a survey into the current housing situation (more info can be found at www.whistler.ca/housing).
More than 1,500 people responded to the online survey, in addition to 757 in-person and telephone responses.
The task force was put on hold while the survey was conducted, and the results will be discussed at its next meeting sometime this month before eventually being presented to council.
New initiatives from the task force will be guided by those results, said Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden.
"There's a lot of work being done currently by staff, and I've been talking to (RMOW chief administrative officer) Mike Furey about just where we're at with the various initiatives," she said.
"And there may well be a brief (task force) update before we get the survey results."
Meanwhile, an April 5 letter to council from the Real Estate Association of Whistler (REAW) requested more involvement with the Home Run program.
"As per your advertisements for this program, all referrals are being handled by Mountain Country," the letter reads.
"Our Board of Directors voted unanimously that the rental leads should be distributed to all licensed Whistler rental agents who wish to be a part of a list of designated Home Run agencies."
The REAW declined to comment further. The letter was received by council and referred to the next meeting of the task force.