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‘Housing expediter’ hired to deliver employee beds

Familiar face in the Whistler Housing Authority Steve Bayly will start with road ends

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alison@piquenewsmagazine.com

They’re calling him the "housing expediter", for want of a better title.

Steve Bayly has been hired by the municipality to deliver employee housing within the year – a task that has him both excited and admittedly a little nervous that he gets it right.

But it’s not as though Bayly is a stranger to delivering employee housing in Whistler. As a founding board member of the Whistler Housing Authority, Bayly has been instrumental in delivering employee housing projects in Whistler for almost a decade.

"I bought into the idea a long time ago," said Bayly. "I truly believe accommodating the people who work here gives the whole town a leg up, makes it better, gives it a vibrancy."

The tools to get the job done are at his hands, he added. There’s more than $5 million in the housing fund, money that can be used to leverage housing. There’s 300 acres of Crown land, essentially free land, which the province gave to the municipality for the express purpose of building employee housing. And there’s a demand too, in the form of a long waitlist of more than 400 Whistler employees, pre-approved for mortgages, hoping to buy an employee housing unit in Whistler.

"The missing piece was getting going with it, having somebody to carry it forward," he said.

Bayly has lived in Whistler for almost 15 years, skied here for more than 30 years. He has not only been instrumental in delivering employee housing projects, but has also had a large hand in developing Function Junction.

The day after his appointment was announced at Monday’s council meeting, Bayly was touring potential housing sites with Tim Wake, general manager of the WHA. Wake, who has worked closely with Bayly at the WHA, saw his appointment as a step in the right direction.

"This is going to help us move forward," said Wake. "This is moving from policy to implementation."

In particular, the sites they were looking at this week are seven small parcels of land in the valley. These road end sites were first identified in a comprehensive report titled Comparative Evaluation of Potential Resident Housing Site in Whistler, which was delivered to council in March. The report identified a number of sites, including private and public lands for employee housing.

Last month Councillor Nick Davies asked staff to further review the small road end sites in the report and identify the ones which might be used for employee housing. Staff sees potential in seven sites for duplex style housing. They are:

• the northern end of Alpha Lake Road in Function Junction, where the road abuts the railway tracks and the Alpha Creek wetlands;

• the road end accessing Alpha Lake from Alta Lake Road between the railway tracks and the Tamarisk development;

• a parcel further along Alta Lake Road, south of the Whistler Hostel, overlooking Alta Lake;

• the end of Lorimer Road, next to Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church;

• two parcels of land in Tapley’s Farm, both on Balsam Way;

• and finally, one of two sites in the White Gold area. One of the sites could be the location of a future bridge over Fitzsimmons Creek, while the other one could be used for housing.

In his report to council Monday Bob MacPherson, the municipality’s General Manager of Planning and Development Services, said employee housing might not be the best option for each site.

"It is unlikely that resident housing is the highest and best use of each of these sites," he wrote in his report. In that case, the municipality also has the opportunity to sell the land privately and add the proceeds of the sale to the resident housing fund.

Councillor Ken Melamed wanted to ensure that any decision to develop on the lands or sell them comes back before council for review.

"I personally would like to participate in that debate," he said. Council supported this request.

The sites will not deliver a huge quantity of housing Bayly admits, but it’s a place to start. He will also be looking at other opportunities for employee housing on things such as the 300 acre Crown land bank.

The plan, as Wake suggested, is to build a little housing at a time and monitor the situation.

Bayly will be working for the municipality for roughly six months to one year on this project. "There’s a good amount of satisfaction in seeing something successful completed," he said.

Bayly also sits on the newly appointed board of the Athletes Village Development Corporation. It’s a board made up of both the public and private sector, which will oversee the development of the athletes village in the Cheakamus. That development will ultimately be turned into employee housing but not until after the 2010 Games. In the meantime, Bayly will be Whistler’s point man to ensure housing is delivered efficiently and in a timely manner.

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