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Landlords, tenants facing new reality

Olympics have contributed to abundance of rental units now available

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Zucht said the WHA had intended three-to-four years ago to stagger when each development was ready. It didn't happen that way and there will likely be an exodus from rental properties, since a majority of new buyers are coming out of rentals.

"The opportunity for locals to be buying their own unit rather than just look for a rental, I think that's had a huge impact."

And there's the economy. Ross manages higher end homes in Mexico and New York as well as in Whistler and he says those have been slow to rent out as well.

"It's tough all over," he said.

"It's indicative of the economy. People who rent higher end houses - and I'd certainly do it too if I was going to be spending that kind of money - would be to just get a room at the Four Seasons, get someone to do my laundry and get a foot rub as opposed to just getting the house."

Zucht says that it's still too early to comment on whether this widespread availability of rental units is a new reality in Whistler or merely an anomaly given the uniqueness of the previous winter season.

"It's going to be the end of September, following Labour Day, and October that's going to be the tell-tale time. If landlords haven't filled their units by September 1 st , it's going to be tougher for them - at least until November, when the next surge of winter employees arrive."

Zucht says that the WHA, which focuses its statistical information on long-term accommodations, has seen rent in Whistler increase "consistently and steadily" over the last decade. She adds that accommodation for locals - particularly for new employees - has been an issue since the early 1990s.

As the town grew and as businesses grew, so too did the need for employee housing. The municipality brought in a bylaw that required any new commercial development to provide housing for employees or cash in lieu. Most of those commercial entities couldn't provide staff housing on site and so paid cash, which went into a housing fund.

That fund grew, and from that the municipality built rental housing and also created the WHA in 1998 to tackle the issue of housing for local employees.

Zucht says the conversation at the Welcome Week dinner in the fall has always been dominated by housing - new arrivals finding work but no home. Some have paid over $1,000 to share a room. Others are forced to share beds.