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Puzzling rental situation continues to evolve

Few people sign up for Tenant Registry, Whistler Workforce Housing still empty



Worried about getting kicked out of your place during the Olympics?

Even though there are only eight months until the Winter Olympics hit Whistler, only three people to date have signed their names to the municipality's Tenant Registry List that protects renters from getting evicted during the Games.

Marla Zucht, general manager of the Whistler Housing Authority, said she is surprised so few people have joined the registry. But "we still need to (be) communicating the tenant registry is out there for residents."

"My guess is it may get more traction as the year goes on," said Zucht.

She said quite a few places are available for rent right now, but things will likely change this fall, which traditionally has been a tough time to find places to rent in Whistler.

The absence of names from the registry, available at , may speak to the larger rental picture in Whistler.

Despite predictions a few years ago that it would be almost impossible to find rental accommodation in Whistler the year leading up to the Games, there are more places to rent this year than last.

At the end of May this year, 106 units were up for rent, compared to only 80 in 2008.

Gordon Low from Mountain Country Properties added that his company's vacancy is double what it was 12 months ago.

"Summer time last year our vacancies were at five per cent. This June we are looking at 10 per cent," said Low, adding "vacancy" means the property has been empty for at least a month.

"Generally speaking, properties are renting, and they are renting through to the spring of next year. The majority of our demand is past the Olympics. But the demand is not overwhelming."

He said that last fall and winter, the panic level among renters was quite high, but people seem to be calmer now.

Meanwhile, the man who was planning on putting temporary residences near Whistler Village from now until past the Olympics is also struggling with low demand.

Only 19 people have signed up for the 300 beds Alvaro Ponce de Leon was hoping to have erected this spring as part of the Whistler Workforce Housing Project.

"We don't know what the businesses want at this point," said Ponce de Leon.

"If they are interested in having accommodation during the Olympics, we don't know it. My assumption is there will be a need for employee accommodation like every winter season."

Ponce de Leon still plans to go ahead with his project, but with so few people signed up for the temporary housing, he has to rework his plans and numbers. When the temporary housing will be ready for occupancy and how much a room will cost per month are two questions he has to find answers for.

He is also in discussions with several groups, including the City of Vancouver, to make arrangements for the housing after the Games wrap up.

But even though there are options for renters in town, the rental situation is still tough for many people.

Several places listed for rent in Whistler are not available through the Olympics or are charging higher-than-normal rent prices.

During a council workshop with the Residential Tenancy Branch last week, one woman said she knows many people within her company that are having trouble finding long-term, affordable accommodation.

"We had a staff member get told yesterday, 'You have to leave now because I can rent my place out for X number of dollars,'" she said.

In response to her statement, representatives from the Residential Tenancy Branch, Tenant Resource and Advisory Centre and the B.C. Apartment Owners and Managers Association stressed it is important both tenants and landlords know their rights.