During the last three weeks I have spent sometime discussing the short-term housing issue with many members of our community. In order to further the discussion of this important issue I felt I should share some of my opinions.
After speaking to our mayor, senior municipal staff and members of the business sector I am pleased to see that we have one very important goal in common. All parties appear to believe in the continued commitment that as we reach build-out we will have created a community that is economically vibrant, socially responsible and environmentally sustainable.
However, after speaking with some RMOW personnel and listening to our councillors I have become greatly concerned about the apparent misunderstanding of how employee housing fits into our vision for Whistler. I now believe that many of our municipal leaders are so overwhelmed by the challenges of build-out that they are starting to think of employees as a problem. This point was brought home in a frightening way by one councillor at the most recent council meeting.
Employee housing is not a problem but conversely the most important building block to achieving all our other goals. Long ago we made decisions that will ensure we will soon reach a certain size a size that is larger than we are today. Successfully maintaining that size will require a great number of happy, energetic, and youthful employees engaged in all aspects of our community. We will need more of these employees than we have today and the best way to attract and keep them is with a non-market supply of decent housing. Additional employee housing is the correct thing to do both socially and economically. As importantly, housing sufficient employees inside our community will help to counteract many of the market forces that could otherwise cause us to compromise our natural environment.
As well, in response to those councillors who are suggesting that we have set our expectations too high I feel that many others would disagree. Those of us in the business sector still know that there is time to reach our "lofty" goals. Whistlers successes have certainly come through planning and thought, but equally from being bold and decisive. Now is neither the time to hesitate nor is it the time to lower our standards. If we start taking action we can still achieve all we originally though possible.
Finally, to those councillors who "lobbed the ball" back to the business community I say great. There are many strong and skilled leaders outside your chambers who want to be involved. These business and community leaders have spent their working lives turning negatives into positives, minimizing risks and putting all decisions into the context of a "big picture". They are capable of evaluating all opportunities, reducing costs and devising the optimal solutions for all concerned. They are co-operative and have learned that involving the opinions of many always leads to a better decision. However, please recognize that as council when you tell us it is our responsibility, and encourage us to "think outside the box", you must support and assist us. Your actions as council will either help us achieve the "Whistler Vision" or return us to your confusion between what are problems and what are solutions.