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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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In that sense he said Squamish is becoming a larger part of making Whistler affordable.

"We don't need surveys to know that there is a higher cost of living in Whistler," he said. "We don't have a Wal-Mart, a Canadian Tire or a London Drugs, but it's interesting now with the Squamish commuter service that more residents are taking advantage of the options that exist in Squamish. Maybe it's a regional answer we need to be contemplating moving forward.

"I do know that after the Games as Whistler continues to mature we're going to have to look at more ways to continue to address the affordability issue."

The Whistler 2020 task force on Resident Affordability is without a coordinator at this point, but in recent years the Whistler Community Services Society has taken the lead on the issue. The WCSS already administers the Food Bank, Re-Use-It Centre, Greenhouse Project, KidSport, Whistler Survival Guide and several other programs targeted to low income residents. Now, the WCSS is branching out with the creation of a Food Buying Club, advocating on behalf of a commercial greenhouse in Whistler, raising funds to build a Re-Build-It Centre to recycle and reuse construction materials and building supplies, and organizing other programs for families with limited incomes.

Greg McDonnell, the executive director of the WCSS, is proud of the efforts they've made in recent years on behalf of lower income families and residents.

"I think we're definitely trying to pick the low-hanging fruit a little bit and adding programs that don't cost a lot of money," he said. "We have added a lot of programs over the last couple of years, and I think that's been good management on our part in that we've been smart about it - we haven't taken on any expensive programs and used social entrepreneurship through things like the Re-Use-It Centre to raise money for our other programs. Hopefully we'll expand that with the Re-Build-It Centre, which will allow us to add even more programs in the future."

Some programs, like the greenhouse program, pay for themselves, while others like their Youth Outreach Programs are funded by grants and revenues from the Re-Use-It Centre. The Food Bank is mainly fueled by donations of food and money, and although the demand for services in the summer ate away a lot of its supply for the winter season the community has responded with food drives and donations.

"We're definitely down in donations, as everyone knows, but we're getting a lot of support from the community this winter. The Fairmont's (Chateau Whistler) employee foundation did a huge food drive for us this past week, which will go a long way to fill up our shelves. And we've been getting some great donations that we weren't expecting," said McDonnell.