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Seasonal housing the main objective

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Housing survey shows decreasing percentage of workers choose to live in Whistler

More and more employees are choosing to live outside of Whistler according to a just released report by the Whistler Housing Authority.

The reason behind the trend, states the report, is "the unavailability of affordable housing."

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation defines affordable housing as that requiring 30 per cent, or less, of an individual’s monthly income.

Last year’s WHA survey found that 48 per cent of Whistler employees spend 30 per cent of their income on rent. A further 22 per cent spent 40 per cent of their income on rent. Over 44 per cent of employees said their rent was unaffordable.

While most would agree that the housing authority is doing an excellent job in providing homes for long-term residents, rental housing for seasonal employees is still an issue for most businesses in town.

"I think what hasn’t been addressed is the seasonal employee problem," said David Campbell of Keir Fine Jewellery.

"It certainly directly affects me as a businessman.

"The kids aren’t coming here any more because it’s not a fun place to live. They can’t get a place to live for a reasonable price and they have to work three jobs to survive. All of a sudden that defeats the purpose of coming here to enjoy the mountains, like they are meant to be able to do."

Campbell’s concern is that failure to provide seasonal housing will affect the overall guest experience and the vitality of the community.

And Campbell is frustrated that at least one employee housing project has failed, "for one stupid reason or another."

The results are that some businesses may have to cut back hours due to staffing shortages, they may be forced to hire unqualified people, and most businesses have to pay higher wages than you will find in the rest of the province to offset the high cost of living.

Tim Wake of the WHA says it’s a problem everyone recognizes.

"We acknowledge that we haven’t been successful in creating the 500 seasonal rental beds that we talked about in our business plan," he said.

‘That is probably our primary objective right now, to look for those 500 seasonal beds.

"These solutions are very difficult to deliver. That is the bottom line. There are just so many obstacles to creating this type of stuff."

There are several factors impacting employee housing in the resort. Two of the most prominent are the decreasing number of market suites available and the sale of homes lived in by residents to people who plan to redevelop the property into vacation homes.

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