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More places for rent in Whistler but prices are up

As the Olympics near, renters are having a harder time securing long term leases



Only six weeks into his search for a new place, Dan Piper has already noticed the rental market in Whistler is remarkably different from the one he encountered last fall.

At that time, places were being snapped up so quickly that Piper and his wife tackled their accommodation search like a full-time job for 10 weeks.

Now, they do not feel the need to look as hard because more places are up for rent. But they are finding that prices are higher than before and securing a lease through the Olympics is challenging.

"There is a lot of stuff out there, but it is just really expensive," said the Brewhouse employee. The average rate he is seeing for one-bedroom places with a one-year lease is $1,600 per month.

"A lot of the leases have been conditional, as in it is a long term lease but you have to be out for two weeks over the Olympics... And I would say probably 70 to 80 per cent of the places we have looked into have had leases that expire on Nov. 1."

Piper is not alone in his observations about Whistler's rental housing situation this spring.

According to statistics collected by the Whistler Housing Authority (WHA), about 40 per cent more unrestricted rental units were advertised this March in Pique Newsmagazine and The Question compared to March 2008. (Specifically, 183 units were listed for rent in the first three weeks of March this year compared to 129 last year.)

But prices are also up for everything from studio suites to multi-bed units and single-family homes.

For example the average advertised price for a studio this year was $1,422 a month compared to $1,096 last year.

Likewise a one-bedroom was advertised at $1,501 compared to $1,275 last year; a two-bedroom at $2,310 compared to $1,887; a three-bedroom at $3,989 compared to $3,070 and a single family home at $4,393 compared to $3,609.

Marla Zucht, general manager of the WHA, said she was cautious to speculate about why inventory is freeing up, but said perhaps people are leaving town earlier this year because of the economic slowdown and recent layoffs in Whistler.

She added, though: "Certainly we are still hearing people are out there looking for accommodation, so by no means do I think it has eased up.

"And we have not seen the turnover in our WHA inventory. Our vacancy level is still zero for what is available."

Also, Piper's difficulty finding a lease through the Olympics is common in today's unrestricted rental market, said Zucht.