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Mixed progress on affordability front

Wages not keeping pace with inflation, but affordability program meeting targets

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If you earn less than $26,000 a year, before taxes, you can’t afford to live and enjoy Whistler. If you’re a family of four, you need to be compensated in the neighbourhood of $60,000 — not including the cost of daycare.

For the average worker, that translates to earning the equivalent $12.40 an hour, working 40 hours a week. For the average family, two income earners need to pull in around $30 per hour.

It can, and has, been done for much cheaper, but according to Whistler 2020 monitoring, that is how much you need to be compensated in cash and/or benefits to live here and have the time and toys to actually enjoy what Whistler has to offer.

According to Dan Wilson, a Whistler 2020 monitoring coordinator for the Resort Municipality of Whistler, one of the main issues impacting the cost of living is that wages are not keeping pace with inflation, with the average Whistlerite earning less than $20,000 a year according to income tax assessments — a figure that has been stagnant for at least three years and has not kept pace with inflation. While the numbers don’t take the past year’s employee shortage and construction boom into account, he says the information they have collected includes 2006.

On Tuesday evening the Whistler Forum for Dialogue held a Dialogue Café to discuss the “The Rising Costs of Living in Whistler”. Presenters included Wilson, who helps to measure progress on the recommendations made in the Whistler 2020 sustainability plan, and Janet McDonald, the head of the Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS). Participants in the discussion included Mayor Ken Melamed, Councillors Gord McKeever and Ralph Forsyth, and Whistler 2020 coordinator Shannon Gordon. They mostly limited the discussion to elements of the Resident Affordability strategy within Whistler 2020, which does not including housing — a separate strategy in Whistler 2020.

According to McDonald, the Resident Affordability task force has made some progress in implementing the recommendations in Whistler 2020.

“The challenge is that affordability is such a big, complex issue and there are so many factors controlling it,” she said.

According to the latest monitoring report from 2006, the most recent action items include expanding the Re-Use-It Centre in Function Junction, better promoting the centre within the resort, and ensuring that people know that the money raised by the secondhand store go to other WCSS programs.

The addition of a new drop-off and purchase centre for building materials is late, but McDonald confirmed that it will happen in 2008 and will be located at the new municipal waste transfer station in the Callaghan Valley.

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