Despite the best efforts of local organizations and agencies, the seasonal housing situation in Whistler isn’t improving.
Whistler-Blackcomb’s staff housing is already full, the Whistler Housing Authority’s H.O.M.E. matching program has yet to turn up a match, and local classifieds are looking sparse.
Brian Good, manager of Whistler-Blackcomb’s staff accommodation — often referred to as House — is also responsible for finding 88 beds in the valley for WB’s ski and snowboard instructors. So far, they’ve managed to find 68 beds, and Good says staff is working hard to find the additional 20. But it hasn’t been easy.
While finding seasonal housing is usually tough, Good believes this year has been worse than others for a few reasons: the quickly-approaching Olympics, great snow the last two winters, the influx of construction workers, and the absence of one WHA rental building.
“Last year I would have said, ‘oh, you know, there’s a bit of hype,’” said Good.
“This is the first year where all of those factors… have made a noticeable impact on the availability on valley house beds.”
Good says Whistler-Blackcomb recognized this would be a challenging year for seasonal housing, so they added 61 new beds to House to try and create more space, and he is also trying to turn the construction situation around, contacting companies to see when workers will be leaving and preparing to take over the beds they leave behind.
But Karen Bauckham, recruiting manager for Whistler-Blackcomb, says the company is hiring for about 1,000 positions at their annual job fair this week and won’t have housing for all of them.
Bauckham attributes the increased demand for housing to a recent shift in their recruiting operations. Earlier this year, WB pre-hired about 500 people in an effort to create more security for new staff and the company.
“We only have so many beds, so by the time we put beds aside for our pre-hires and for some of the other programs that we have, we had about 300-plus beds left for the recruiting fair,” said Bauckham.
And efforts to turn up additional housing have been frustrating.
Councillor Ralph Forsyth, committee co-chair of WHA’s H.O.M.E. program, says so far, no homeowners have signed onto their matching project and only five employers have signed up, despite their advertising campaign. Forsyth says he doesn’t know why people are hesitant to get involved, but is frustrated by the lack of response from the community.
He says the H.O.M.E. program mitigates risks for owners and would solve the problem for a lot of local businesses, but people need to “step up and participate.”