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Non-cost initiatives produce results



Housing authority receives two proposals to create resident-restricted suites

The non-cost resident housing initiatives, which were just adopted by Whistler council last month, are already starting to yield some results.

The owner of a large single-family lot in Taluswood, which has a covenant on title requiring a resident-restricted suite be included in the house, has agreed to purchase a unit at Gondola Village, which will become resident-restricted housing.

The Gondola Village unit will cost the lot owner $250,000. The unit will be sold to a Whistler resident on the Whistler Housing Authority’s wait list for $87,000.

In return for purchasing the unit the lot owner will not be required to build the suite in his home.

Tim Wake, general manage of the housing authority, says both sides win in this deal. The lot owner would rather have a media room or another bed room in his home than an employee-restricted suite, and the property will be worth more to him when he goes to sell it.

Meanwhile, the community gains some permanent employee housing, in a more convenient location, at an affordable price. When the unit is re-sold it will go to someone else on the housing authority’s wait list. The re-sale price will be tied to an inflationary index, rather than the market.

"What we’re doing is hooking on to the market," Wake says. "The expensive houses are helping drive the real estate market. This person will just build the cost of the Gondola Village unit into the price of building their house."

A home owner in Emerald Estates may become the second person to take advantage of the non-cost initiatives. The home owner is interested in strata-titling part of her home to create a resident-restricted suite.

"It allows people to downsize and cash out, in a sense, but stay in their own neighbourhood," says Wake.

By splitting the value of the house over two properties it reduces the costs, including property taxes, to the home owner, making the house more affordable. It also keeps the home owner in market housing while creating a resident-restricted suite.

The non-cost housing initiatives were reviewed by a citizens advisory committee before being adopted by council last month. The initiatives are aimed at finding ways to create more affordable resident-restricted housing by utilizing existing buildings and to stem the loss of affordable housing. Some of the other initiatives include allowing a bonus density in return for the creation of a resident-restricted suite and allowing resident-restricted suites above detached garages.

"If we can get three or four or five of these a year it’s a nice flow of housing – at no cost and without building new housing," said Wake.

He added that it takes a little time and word-of-mouth before people understand the non-cost initiatives and buy into the concept. That’s not unlike the wait list for people interested in buying employee-restricted housing: it took a while for people to catch on to the concept and register, but now many people realize it’s the only way they will ever own a home in Whistler.

"We had enquiries every day this winter. There wasn’t a day that went by when someone didn’t come in to ask about the wait list," Wake says.

There are now more than 300 people on the waiting list to buy employee-restricted accommodation. All are pre-approved for a mortgage.