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Pique n' your interest

The Oh-lympics

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On Monday, municipal council at last voted to endorse the Vancouver 2010 bid after months of negotiations with the province over Olympic legacies. The council and mayor voted 6-1 in favour of a resolution to support the games, with Ken Melamed casting the only no vote.

The decision attracted national and international media attention, but there wasn’t much high-fiving in the streets.

Council can be congratulated for sticking to their guns and getting the best deal possible for Whistler from the provincial government, but for most people I’ve talked to the typical reaction to the announcement was a big fat "oh." No exclamation point or question mark.

Maybe an event that is still almost eight years down the road is too distant to expect any real enthusiasm.

For the transient workers, 2010 is about as important a number as the square root of Pi – even if such a number existed, it’s doesn’t affect life a whole lot.

As for the long-term people, let’s just say that some of us have more pressing things to worry about.

Like, will we even be able to afford to live in Whistler in another eight years? Check out the classified section under long term accommodation and you’ll see what I mean – home ownership is a pipe dream for people who can easily spend half their paycheques to rent a tiny basement suite.

The Olympics will generate some affordable staff housing, but that’s something we need Thursday, not in 2010. By then it will be too late for many of us.

Affordability and employee housing is quickly becoming the leading campaign issue in the Whistler municipal election, but it’s not like you can fault previous councils for doing nothing. It’s just that the supply they created just can’t keep up with the demand.

Part of the reason for the shortage is the simple fact that Whistler’s population is growing. Between 2000 and 2001, the permanent population increased from 9,676 to 9,965. It’s hardly a refugee crisis, but we needed to create 289 more employee beds just to keep up, and there was already a shortage to begin with.

Another reason that council can’t keep up with housing demands – and I refer you once again to the classified section – is that there is no longer any affordable housing in the valley that isn’t specifically designated and controlled as such. Rent costs are going up, and there are fewer low-end rental properties available every year.

The smallest, most dilapidated A-frame will fetch more than half a million dollars these days because the land is so valuable. Developers can afford to buy these properties, tear the existing houses down, build larger residences, and still manage to sell them for a sizeable profit. With that kind of money floating around, landlords don’t have a lot of incentive to rent their places anymore.

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