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Last employee housing project on the books sells quickly

No more new developments in the pipeline, roughly 500 still on waitlist



David and Kelly Foran weren't sure if they were going to stay in Whistler with their two sons in the long-term.

Rent has been prohibitively high in recent years and they had been on the waitlist for employee housing for almost a decade, waiting for the perfect home that fit their needs.

"It's been a stressful couple of years," admitted David Foran. "I'd almost even say we had one foot out the door for leaving Whistler."

All that changed on Sunday, however, when the Forans became the owners of a three-bedroom unit at the new Fitzsimmons Walk project, at the entrance to White Gold.

Twenty-nine units of the 36-unit resident-restricted project sold in an all-day event at the presentation centre.

Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) General Manager Marla Zucht is confident the project would have sold out in one day if they had been offered to everyone on the Fitzsimmons Walk waitlist. Only the top 100 people on the waitlist, however, had the official invitation Sunday.

"There's still 200 people on the Fitzsimmons Walk waitlist," said Zucht, adding that the remaining seven units will soon be offered to the rest of that list.

Fitzsimmons Walk is the last employee housing development in the pipeline, with hundreds of units recently added to the inventory in the form of the athletes' village and the Rainbow development.

Despite the new homes, today's waitlist is still roughly 500 applicants strong and growing all the time.

"The majority of people on the waitlist are on for two bedrooms," said Zucht. "That's still the highest demand."

There are several aspects to the Fitzsimmons project that make it appealing she added, not the least of which is the very affordable price point.

The units, all two and three bedrooms, sold at $197.75 per square foot. That's cheaper than the athletes' village at roughly $250/square foot, and Rainbow, where owners pay for the cost of the land in addition to the building cost.

"It's definitely some of the more affordable product that's come out lately," said Zucht.

She explained that Cressey, the developer, was tied to a cheaper building rate because this project fulfills their employee housing requirements for the Westin Hotel, which was built several years ago without any employee housing at the time.

Cressey earned points with the WHA for meeting Whistler Green, the municipality's green building standard, and that raised the price per square foot slightly.

Owners also had to pay $23,500 in additional costs for upgrades, parking and a secure storage unit.

But it was worth it for the Forans.

"It was an attractive price point."

Foran admits they took a bit of gamble waiting for the perfect unit at Fitzsimmons. They passed on the athletes' village. They passed on Rainbow.

"There's just too many pros to that (Fitzsimmons) development to go anywhere else," he said.

Fitzsimmons is appealing he said with the proximity to Nesters Market and the village. He was also impressed with the quality of the development - the employee housing units look almost identical to the neighbouring 41-market townhouses from the outside.

"As an owner now, it's evident that what they're doing (at the WHA) works," said Foran.

The WHA is now in the annual process of updating its waitlist. That waitlist was close to 1,000 applicants this year but with the new developments sold to waitlisters, the list has dropped by about half. The WHA is expecting to have updated numbers by the end of this week.

In the meantime, the Forans are packing up their bags and stacking their boxes, getting ready to move not out of town, but across town, before the end of the month.

Foran said: "We were lucky that we got the one that we wanted and super happy to get in there as soon as possible."



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