News » Whistler

Pique n' your interest

Scenes from the class war

by

comment

Gentrification: The restoration and upgrading of deteriorated urban property by middle-class or affluent people, often resulting in displacement of lower-income people. (YourDictionary.com)

Anyone sticking their finger in the air to find out which way the wind is blowing in Whistler these days is likely to get it bitten off.

The rank and file of this town, the people who tune your skis, fix your lattés, cook your food, stock your shelves, and write the newspaper columns that line your hamster cages, have been pushed to the brink. The claws of profiteering, disguised as the slightly more benevolent claws of progress, are even now tightening around our hearts and pitiful wallets.

Despite all the foresight of our community leaders and their conscientious efforts to avoid this fate, Whistler appears destined to follow Vail, Aspen and other failed social ski town experiments down the road to incompatibility. The notion that the rich and the poor – excuse me, the affluent and lower income people – can somehow co-exist in the same valley is just not panning out.

It takes all kinds to make a community, but increasingly the town has been sharply polarized into two distinct groups: the haves and have-nots. Our shrinking middle class, and there was a viable middle class here once, can no longer afford to live in Whistler, and is crying out for property tax and school tax relief – anything that would allow them to be able to stay here just a little longer.

The fact that their houses are now worth a million dollars is more of a burden than a windfall to these people. They didn’t come here to profit, but to ski, to breathe the fresh air, and to raise their families in the mountains.

So how does it feel to be a have-not?

Let me tell you – it sucks. It sucks to worry about yearly rent increases and the likelihood that the house I live in will be sold out from underneath me (for the second time in two years), because the market wants it, and the rising property taxes are putting landlords in a tight spot.

It sucks that everything I buy, from groceries to sneakers to gas, is significantly more expensive in Whistler than it is in Squamish or Pemberton.

It sucks that pretty much all of my friends are seriously thinking about moving out of town in the next few years because they know they will never be able to afford to live here with any kind of dignity.

Compounding all this inequity, we have-nots are losing our working class symbols to the affluent. The Southside Deli, the first and the last bastion of the old Creekside, is being replaced by an oyster bar. The south shore of Nita Lake, the site of the old tennis club and some good squatting parking lots, is slated for a five storey hotel and train station. The entire Creekside base is being transformed into a mini Whistler Village, with the final stages going in this summer. Do the developers really believe they are providing services for locals, which was what they claimed in the beginning, or are they just into boosting property values in the south end of town even further?

Add a comment