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Resident affordability continues to be a concern

Fewer people can afford cost of living in Whistler, according to monitoring report

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As for the metrics, Melamed said it's difficult to apply a cost of living to certain demographics, especially for younger workers who earn less by choice.

"Even though a large portion and increasing portion of (seasonal workers) don't make enough to meet costs or the basket of goods, when asked how many work full-time or would work more hours the answers came back in the negative," said Melamed. "It appears that people are living at a certain income level by choice, even if they have options to increase that earning level. It also goes back to lifestyle, so the rules don't necessarily apply equally there. There are some confusing things that we need to understand better."

The RMOW says some of the best progress in meeting affordability issues is the result of farming out opportunities to existing groups or working with partners - something that is also a core value of the Whistler 2020 framework. For example, Melamed points to the success of the Re-Use-It Centre for the Whistler Community Services Society, as well as the efforts of groups like the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, Whistler Arts Council and others to support the community.

"I'm quite happy and pleased to support the community groups that are better able to focus their efforts and that come back to us when they need our support," he said.

Another idea Melamed would like to see brought to life in Whistler is a co-op grocery store. It's in his family, with a cousin operating two stores in Olympia, Washington and his parents volunteering at a store in Montreal. However, Melamed says that village space is at a premium and even less expensive buildings in Function Junction are probably still too expensive for a co-op's purposes.

"That's the reality in Whistler, these stores do well in areas where you might find unused warehouse space with very low overhead and we don't have that," he said.

The municipality also has to balance the tourism and resort experience with affordability, something that came into play in 2007 when council voted down an application that would have resulted in a 17,000 square foot London Drugs store in the village.

"The question was never whether London Drugs was welcome in Whistler, it was always the location," he said. "The decision hinged on the fact that Whistler Village is not the place for big box, low-cost shopping experience."

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