Buy it and they will come
After reading the stories and identifying with many of the unfortunate housing scenarios outlined in recent editions of our local papers, it seems clear that most of us agree that more housing is needed.
Every September employers cringe at the thought of finding new employees that will need training and may not even stay if they have nowhere to stay.
Every September landlords get dollar signs in their eyes as they contemplate how many bodies they can cram into their rental house at $500 to $700 each. Every September a new batch of willing workers shows up desperately lining up at the newspaper offices to get first crack at these rental houses.
Sorry, I dont have all the answers but I am, as most of us are in someway, affected by it all. Are the landlords to blame? I dont think so. They probably have a substantial mortgage and the only way to pay it, is to charge huge rent.
Affordable housing is a tough term to define in Whistler and I am not going to try. My wife and I own (I do help a bit) a retail store in the Marketplace that employs five to eight staff depending on the season. We have been extremely fortunate with excellent staff and many have been with us for years.
A few years ago we saw the writing on the wall and knew the housing situation in Whistler would always be an issue. So, we bought our own.
Many other employers have built or purchased housing as well so I am not introducing a new idea, but some smaller businesses may not have considered taking control of the situation in this way.
Picking up a property for staff does not need to be a million-dollar Whistler home. We purchased a two-bedroom condominium in Pemberton and now enjoy a sense of security in regards to staffing our business. The new bus service has simplified the commute between Whistler and Pemberton and Pemberton is no longer thought of as way up north. Condos and townhouses in Pemberton are still reasonably priced.
When staff have two jobs and quit one, they will probably keep the one that includes housing. Staff stays longer, the employer spends less on training and you may even make money on the property while satisfying your housing needs.
Whether you subsidise the rent to your staff, is up to the employer. Do you have a place to live? doesnt have to be as scary a question to ask new applicants. This will not really reduce the need for more employee housing, but it may help some businesses not be afraid of the fall.
Think about it.