Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed out

Hold your nose, again



Page 2 of 3

The people who have staffed the Whistler Housing Authority have understood this. The WHA board has understood this. Council has, I thought, understood this. It has been well understood since Garry Watson fought the first battle with Mayor Nebbeling over the subject nearly 20 years ago.

So what in the world was council thinking when it agreed to WDC’s request to start appreciating Cheakamus Crossing units when people sign their sales contract instead of when they take possession?

When prices are released next month and sales begin, buyers will have to put down 2 per cent deposit when they sign their sales agreement. They’ll have to come up with another 3 per cent a year in advance of closing, projected to be November 2009. They’ll get their new homes around June of 2010, perhaps 18 months after they’ve put up their deposits, which will be held in trust and which will earn interest.

Their new homes will begin to appreciate in value according to WHA’s CCPI formula when the contract is signed, not when they take possession.

Let’s compare this arrangement to one with which I am intimately familiar: WHA’s Nita Lake project, my home. In late March, 2006, we signed the sales agreement and a cheque for 10 per cent of the sales price. In late February, 2007, 11 months later, we moved in, the appreciation clock started running. The total number of Nita Lake purchasers who complained about this arrangement was zero.

So why has council agreed to this plan? Its main effect will be to inflate the cost of Cheakamus Crossing housing to future purchasers while affording first-time CC buyers a small, unasked for bonus. WHA was against the idea. The WHA board was against the idea. At the very minimum, council has some ‘splainin’ to do.

Of course, it never explained why this project is being sold by Whistler Real Estate Co., who received what can most generously be described as a gift of half a million bucks for their services either. WHA has provided those services in the past and have had to train WRE people on how to sell non-market housing. Since selling WHA housing has been pretty much an exercise in starting at the top of the waitlist and working your way down, it’s an Olympic size curiosity that a realtor with no experience in selling non-market housing should get the contract instead of, oh, hiring another WHA employee or two for the time necessary to complete the sales. But then, it’s an even bigger curiosity why there’s a $1 million “marketing” budget for selling the units as well. This additional $1.5 million has added about $7.50/square foot to the cost of CC units.