It’s two years to go to the
Olympics, and the rental market in Whistler is showing it.
Fewer places are available
compared to last year and already high rents are continuing to increase. But
according to Marla Zucht, general manager for the Whistler Housing Authority
(WHA), the housing crunch is not a surprise.
“We expected it would be
slightly softer, and slightly tighter this year,” said Zucht.
“And we are anticipating for
(next year) there will be even less available certainly for the private
In 2007, 69 rental units were
listed for rent in
first three weeks of February. This number dropped to 47 units this year.
Rents have also increased.
The median rent for a one-bedroom place in February 2007 was $1,125 compared to
$1,138 in February 2008. Three-bedroom homes, which averaged at $2,500 last
year, rose slightly to $2,525 this year. And a typical single family home
rented for about $3,100 last year compared to $3,200 this year.
However rents for two-bedroom
places have not increased from last year, with places going for an average of
$1,600 both years.
And Zucht said rents are
predicted to continue to climb up from now until 2010.
“I think we’ll see a
noticeable jump up in rents — maybe not next winter, but certainly the
following winter,” said Zucht.
“What we are hearing is
people are getting rentals through to the fall of 2009, but then that last
winter is going to be really, really tight.”
Louise Lundy, president of
the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, agreed that this trend of fewer places and
increasing rents will continue.
“There is no question that
what we are seeing is a much tighter market and we do expect that for the next
year,” said Lundy.
“Even this summer, it’ll be
really interesting to see what the vacancy rates do, because we really expect
that there are going to be a lot more people who are going to stick around.”
A survey conducted by the
chamber earlier this month on their Spirit Pass members showed that 45 per cent
of respondents said finding a place to live in was their biggest challenge
since arriving in Whistler.
Moreover, 25 per cent of
respondents pay 40 per cent of their net income to rent and 18 per cent pay
more than half of their net income to rent. Financial planners recommend you
never spend more than a third of your net income on rent.
Lundy said the Chamber has
also noticed that employers are more on the hook to provide housing than
before. For example, at the WERC job fair in November, employers who offered
housing were more successful hiring workers than those that did not.
As a result of the
anticipated housing crunch leading up to the Olympics, the Chamber has teamed
up with the Whistler Housing Authority and two council members to form the
H.O.M.E. committee, a task force dedicated to finding a housing solution for
“The reason that we are
trying to find some possible solutions is that we recognize that it is going to
be a very, very tight housing market especially in the employee affordability
category,” said Lundy.
“We want to find a possible
solution for employers, so I think we are just going to keep try to pull together
all the pieces and see if we can’t make something happen.”
The H.O.M.E. committee is
currently working on plans to bring in temporary modular homes to Whistler to
house workers between now and the Olympics. The proposal faces some hurdles,
including problems securing a site, although a plot of land across from Mons
road is being considered.
Lundy added that the
committee is still looking at other sites for the proposed development,
although she was not able to specify where.