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Renters have their choice in soft Whistler market

But waitlist to purchase resident-restricted housing has increased 60 per cent



Times have changed from the days when landlords could handpick their tenants, according to local property manager Pam Thompson.

"Now it’s the other way around," she said.

"It’s like you’re trying to give the places away and nobody wants them."

Thompson, who owns Priority Property Management and Golden Dreams Accommodation, has been renting properties in Whistler for the past 18 years and can’t recall the rental market being this slow ever before.

Though last year was quiet too, it doesn’t compare to this shoulder season. Thompson does both holiday bookings and long-term rentals.

"One place I’ve showed so many times and nobody’s taken it," she said.

It’s a common scenario.

Nicci Nesmith is renting a room in a three-bedroom house in Alpine.

At the end of the winter season one roommate left town, leaving the landlord with an empty room in the house.

The room, which is going for $600/month, has been available for rent for almost two and a half months, since April 1.

Every week one or two people come to look at it.

"It’s not a huge response," said Nesmith.

"They’re always looking at other places as well."

General Manager of the Whistler Housing Authority Tim Wake said there is a clear message coming from the marketplace.

The demand has shifted.

Two years ago there was strong interest in both long-term rental housing as well as ownership opportunities in Whistler.

That trend has changed, creating a softer rental market and more demand on the WHA employee restricted housing.

The waitlist for employee housing units has risen more from 200 qualified purchasers (families and couples apply as a single purchaser) to 320 in less than one year.

That’s a 60 per cent increase in a year.

And yet, there are no new for-purchase restricted housing units coming on the market in the near future. The employee housing from the Nita Lake Lodge development is all rental units.

Nine units from that development will be handed over to the municipality. It is not clear if those units will be for purchase or rent

WHA numbers gleaned from tracking the classified ads in both Pique Newsmagazine and The Question, confirm the current market conditions.

By mid-May this year there were 280 units for rent in the paper. For the same time period last year there were 160 units, and in 2002 that number was 143.

Wake admits the WHA tracking methods are better now than they were three years ago but the point remains that there are more places for rent this year than ever before.

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