The Whistler Housing Authority has entered into an agreement with John Taylor to buy the five-acre Beaver Flats area, next to the Whistler Creek Lodge, for development of employee housing. The deal, one of two the housing authority is working on, is expected to close in the next week or two. Interim housing authority general manager Steve Bayly says the development will likely include low density townhouses in the vicinity of the single family homes in the area, and probably an apartment building closer to the highway. Intrawest has agreed to work with the housing authority on alignment and floodproofing for the creek which runs through the property, however, work on the project is unlikely to begin before 1999. The housing authority also has an agreement to purchase one acre at the foot of Lorimer Road, across from the Catholic church, where four duplexes are planned. The eight units would each include a suite, creating 16 units in total. The housing authority hasn’t decided whether this will be a rental project or if the units will be sold, but it is expected to go ahead this summer. The housing authority will also go to tender this week on its Lot 78 project in Nordic. As for private employee housing initiatives, Bayly believes the 19 Mile Creek project is close to satisfying all of the Ministry of Environment’s concerns and requirements and the project should proceed. He also expects Cressey Developments, which will begin work on the Westin hotel this spring, to go ahead with development of townhomes on land in White Gold Estates this summer. Other private projects that are in the planning stages include a combination of single family market lots and rental apartments in the ravine behind Nesters Road. The apartment building would be located behind Nesters Market and the housing authority is looking at purchasing it as a "turn-key" project. There is also some preliminary work being done on the Alpha Creek property behind Les Deux Gros restaurant. Two apartment buildings are planned. Bayly said the housing authority is also working with Intrawest on its plans for redevelopment of the Whistler Creek area. "It’s really helpful to have Paul Stashick (Intrawest development manager) on the board of the housing authority, so we can work with Intrawest," Bayly said. The Whistler Housing Authority has four main functions: to develop rental housing using the municipality’s employee housing fund, to advise council on private employee housing initiatives, administering the various restrictions on employee housing projects and managing existing public employee housing projects. The housing authority manages 26 rental units at Nordic Court and another 20 at Whistler Creek Court. There are more than 600 privately owned units in the valley with various restrictions on occupancy and/or re-sale. Rick Staehli is the new general manager of the housing authority (see related story), taking over from Bayly who has been interim GM since the authority was founded last fall. Bayly notes that while employee housing has been built over the years, not all of it can still be considered affordable. The 600 unit figure is a bit misleading because many of those units don’t have re-sale price restrictions. In other words, they may have been affordable for the first buyers but when they are sold they will fetch market value. That puts Whistler in the position of losing some of its employee housing. "People from Vancouver and the rest of the world still see Whistler as a bargain in the world of international resorts," Staehli says. "That influences the purchase of what were employee housing units when they were first built." The housing authority has also recently modified the rules for housing lotteries and is working to bring some consistency to the various deed restrictions on employee housing projects, so that they are easily understood. The housing authority office, on Main Street in Village North, is available as a resource for people with questions about deed restrictions and other employee housing matters.