Bring in temporary housing
"Housing crunch in Whistler this season" (Pique, Sept. 8) — this is not news. It's the same headline every September for as long as I can remember.
When I first moved to Whistler nearly three decades ago, I had few connections and was unable to find a place to rent. I had to resort to living in an RV at the KOA (now Spruce Grove) with another couple. Despite all the piecemeal efforts the Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) has made, it has barely kept up with the demand.
I do believe the situation is worse than ever. Why? It's because there are far fewer options than there were back then when living in campers, squatting and couch surfing various flophouses was common, easy and acceptable. These have been replaced by trophy second homes for the elite and not for rent.
There is a much more serious threat to the rental market now — Airbnb. It doesn't take a math whiz to figure it out. There are 500 people on the WHA list for rentals. A quick Google search lists over 300 short-term rentals for several occupants on Airbnb. This may be suitable for other places but is disastrous for Whistler!
Council, please do the right thing and side with the workers rather than the taxpayers and immediately ban Airbnb. At the same time swallow your pride and quickly put in temporary shelters like the trailers brought in for the Olympics. Plan for large-scale, apartment-type affordable housing for the near future.
Without affordable housing for workers, the town will quickly implode with its continued growth and the idea of any type of "renaissance" will be impossible no matter how deep the shareholders pockets are.
Housing crunch: Perhaps I'm not alone
I am one of those house owners with an empty suite, as mentioned by Whistler councillor Jack Crompton in your recent article (Pique, Sept.8).
I have taken the unit out of the market after having it in the rental pool for more then 10 years. The reason for doing so is because I no longer want the hassle of dealing with the problems associated with having a bad tenant.
Not to say that all tenants are bad, but when you have one, it seems the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) is more protective of the tenant rights than that of the landlord — and I know this through personal experience.
I tried to evict a tenant for cause, "the tenant threatened verbally to kill me" and it took me more then three months to do so even though the tenant did not comply with the RTB's own regulations to respond to my eviction notice within 10 days of receipt of the notice.
I had to wait two months past the eviction notice date for a hearing with the RTB.
I could go the Airbnb route, which I believe circumvents the RTB regulations and would certainly bring in more income than a long-term rental, but have instead chosen to leave my fully furnished suite empty except for use by friends and family.
I am quite sure I'm not the only homeowner who feels this way.
Outside the box we live in
Get a job with housing? Is that even a reasonable answer to our housing crisis?
What happens when those fill up? Put the onus on the business?
It's not like staff housing has unlimited beds. May as well say, "Fill your rooms to brim."
Maybe we need to allow for vehicle camping in a parking lot again. Let the past culture of ski towns re-emerge. Let the caravan of gypsies have a spot to go if we can't figure out a way to create reasonable housing. Pick a spot, just north or south of the village, if you have to.
That isn't really a solution either, because living out of a vehicle isn't a great long-term solution.
So what are we going to do? We keep hearing these comments about this mountain town, but can we still call ourselves a mountain town? Ever since the highway improvements, the speedier trip from the city, the growth of weekend and yearly visitors from the Lower Mainland, one might want to consider that we're just a suburb of Greater Vancouver.
You could, technically, live here and work in Vancouver. The commute is the same as those who live in Chilliwack and work in Vancouver. Maybe we start looking at this municipality through a scope of reality. We aren't the mountain town of 20, 30, 50 years ago.
If you look at the money going into this Renaissance plan of Whistler Blackcomb's, hundreds of millions of dollars, one has to wonder why money can't be found and funnelled to create a sustainable staff-housing suburb within Whistler.
There are companies in China, for instance, using 3D printing to create building materials out of recycled materials. They have successfully built duplex apartment buildings, five storeys high for peanuts. That's 10 units, for just over $10,000 for the entire complex.
There are companies building homes out of old storage containers and recycled materials for around $25,000.
With all the land around here, such as the 80+ acres for sale near Cougar Mountain, Crown land, muni-owned property, what's a few million to build a new community of cost-effective, modern dwellings just for Whistler staff?
Sure, there's sewage and plumbing and the roads in as well, so account for it, and get creative with modern technology.
Who says they need to be paved roads? What would it cost to put a new express bus route to and from the staff community?
I'm sure there are businesses that would invest to put in a small market, a pub/restaurant.
What about electricity? Why not put in a wind turbine to power that area and hook it up to the grid for excess production? What's the cost on a turbine? $100,000? Maybe some solar options too because that's a viable option now. Look at what's happening in Germany!
The technology exists to create housing that will allow people to find an affordable place to stay comfortably and work in resort. You can keep the price war in around the village for those who want the convenience, but so many of us just want a work-life balance where we aren't having to share rooms and households with many people.
We don't want to have to work two jobs every day, and find limited time on the mountain. We came here for outdoor fun, and a work-life balance.
The investors of Whistler want workers, they want to earn and provide great experiences that bring tourists here. Happy staff makes for better workers.
Considering the state of many homes in Whistler, I think many people would be happy with a simple box they can call their own. Maybe micro homes are an option?
They are popping up in Vancouver. Why not create this idea out of a new structure, maximizing occupancy and rooming privacy. Shared bathrooms and kitchens, like a dorm.
There should be a cap on occupancy in the housing. How are some of the houses even allowed to have as many occupants as they currently do in Whistler?
There should be a cap on what a room can be rented for.
Most of this town is making base wage and tips — $700 should be the max for a private room and even that's absurd to some who are minimum wage workers.
If you had 20 of these five-storey units created from the 3D printed concepts that are being explored in China, and accounted for some added costs for labour and such, you'd still be looking at $500,000 if you priced each one out at $25,000. That number is higher than what they are being created for in China... My bet is that with new technology and some creative planning you could have a new staff housing area setup for $5 to 10 million.
Maybe less if we're actually getting creative and trying some new technology out. If you had two people per unit, in these five-storyed complexes, that's 20 people per building. What would 10 buildings of this nature cost? $250,000? Maybe $500,000 with other costs of infrastructure? I don't know but $700 per month, for 200 people, you'd be looking at $1.68 million a year. Even if the cost were $5 million to make it come to life, you'd have that investment covered within three years. Might not be a cash cow in some minds, but it would make for easier living for the workers of Whistler, in a hypothetical realm.
I am not a builder, the numbers I found may not be reality — I'm just trying to think outside the box.
The answer can't be, get a job with housing. That's passing the buck, and taking no responsibility for infrastructure.
Yes we are privileged to live in Whistler — we've made that choice. But can we stop using that as an excuse to not raise the bar for our ability to live comfortably while working in-resort?
We were fortunate to be able to attend a few of the Whistler Presents concerts. The last show of the series featuring Steven Page and the Odds was equivalent to the grand finale of a large fireworks show!
The Odds, on this particular evening, were at the top of their game! The camaraderie between the group and Steven was heartwarming. When this man sings you can't help but stand in awe.
Thank you to the Resort Municipality of Whistler for arranging these concerts. We are blessed to have these opportunities presented to us in such a beautiful venue.
Arts worth sharing
I believe we should all be thankful to the local artists and arts community for giving our visitors a little slice of something truly worth sharing.
And thanks to the crew for the awesome summer music concerts!
Bring on the writers and film festivals!
A choice movie
I just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who came out to see the Food Choices documentary at the Whistler library last week.
It was so wonderful to see a full house! I hope you enjoyed the movie and found it inspiring.
Food Choices was the first in our fall/winter movie series and we have more movie nights coming up in October, November, January and February, generously supported by the Whistler Public Library.
Whistler has quite the growing community of people who love plant-based food and everyone is always welcome to join our Food & Friends vegan potlucks, which are fun, social events open to everyone, no matter what their food preferences are.
We also have a new event coming up this year to celebrate World Vegan Month, the Devilishly Decadent Vegan Dessert Challenge! Whistler chefs are invited to get creative in the kitchen and offer a delicious vegan dessert for a two-week period in November. For more details on this, and our other events, please visit www.earthsavewhistler.com and www.facebook.com/earthsavewhistler.
Co-founder Earthsave Whistler
Getting back to school
Yes, here we are: a new school year! Like our children, we will have forgotten some of what we knew when school let out, making this an important time to renew the good habits of "last year."
One of the most important lessons to remember is the value of healthy food choices. School is where children go to learn, play and develop skills so it is particularly important for them to be properly 'fuelled' for success. That means making sure they have a healthy lunch and snacks for school-time. Dietitians of Canada remind us that during their school career, your child will eat as many as 2,400 school lunches.
Because many kids could have as little as 15 minutes to eat their lunch, make it easy for them by keeping it simple: peel oranges, slice fruit, include small servings and use easy-to-open containers.
Creating tasty, nutritious school lunches can be a challenge, but there are ways to improve the odds they will be eaten. Start by getting your child to help. They are more likely to eat a lunch they were involved in making. Let your child choose some of the foods to include. As you do, teach them to include foods from at least three of the four food groups of Canada's Food Guide. Remember that more than any other meal, your child controls what they eat for lunch. Make it easy for them to choose an apple over a bag of chips or chocolate bar.
Now that your child has a healthy lunch, consider how they will carry it. We don't mean a bag or lunchbox, rather, this is a good time to review how much a child will be packing on their back to and from school. Many students carry school backpacks every day containing books, supplies and yes, lunch. As children begin to enter middle school, they will likely need to carry more and more. This is the time to remember that a too-heavy backpack will not only be uncomfortable, but may also lead to physical problems now and later in life.
How much weight can they carry? At most, 15 to 20 per cent of their body weight. If you see your child showing discomfort putting on or taking off a backpack, that is a sign that the backpack is too heavy or the weight is badly distributed. Teach your children to lift with their knees and how to organize items in the pack. Place heavier items low and toward the center, and remind them to carry only items that are required for the school day or for homework.
Now that your student has a healthy lunch and a suitable way of carrying their stuff, let's discuss transportation. For many children, the bus is the primary option for getting to school. Teaching them a few simple rules early on will help your child stay safe.
Start by getting them to the bus stop at least five minutes before pickup time — they should never run after the school bus to try to catch it. While waiting, he or she should stay on the sidewalk, well away from the roadway until the bus has come to a full stop and the door opens. For younger children especially, teach them to take two big steps away from the bus when they get off.
Dr. Paul Martiquet
Medical Health Officer for the Sunshine Coast and Powell River