By Alison Taylor
At least 75 people are scrambling to find new homes this month after a flood wreaked extensive water damage at a three-storey employee housing building.
The flood, which stemmed from a build up of silt in a filter to the water supply line, occurred at the end of March at the Nesters Pond apartment complex. Whistler’s Fire Chief has determined that all 37 units in one building must be evacuated by May 1 in order to get the extensive restoration work underway.
“We are certainly trying to relocate as many (tenants) as possible,” said Whistler Housing Authority general manager Marla Zucht.
She said they have been able to help find homes for residents in 15 units to date.
Two floors were given notice roughly two weeks ago, while the top floor tenants just received notice last Friday after an investigation by Whistler Fire Rescue Service.
“The one silver lining for the huge unfortunate situation is that it’s this time of the year as opposed to January/February where it would have been much more catastrophic,” said Zucht.
For 31-year-old Robert Luat the flood worked to his favour, giving him the push he needed to commit to buying an employee housing unit at 19 Mile Creek.
“It was a blessing in disguise,” said Luat, who moves into his new home at the end of April after being on the waitlist for two years.
Others, however, are scrambling to find places, and Luat knows of one tenant that has moved to Squamish.
“Right now it is not easy to find somewhere to live,” he added.
The investigation has uncovered the chain of events that lead to the flood. When the filter became clogged with silt, there was a drop in water pressure throughout the building. That triggered an increase in pressure to the incoming water supply line, causing hot water tanks to release water. The water surged through the building for 45 minutes, seeping through the walls and the floors.
And while some units like Luat’s appear to have no water damage at all, the tenants cannot remain in the building while the restoration work is underway.
Zucht said they are still trying to access how much the restoration work will cost but it could be in the range of $700,000.
“We need to strip everything off to get at the water which is behind the walls,” she said.
She is expecting the work to take about six months. Existing tenants will get first priority to come back to the newly renovated building. In the meantime, the WHA is giving them one month’s free rent for the inconvenience.
There are two buildings at Nesters Pond that are WHA rental buildings. The larger of the two experienced the flood.
“We’re having the second building checked,” said Zucht. “We’re also going to have Beaver Flats checked just as an additional preventative (measure).”