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The big squeeze

Rising taxes, rising costs, and the impact on the Whistler standard of living

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According to a survey conducted by Vancouver-based Mustel group earlier this year, approximately 43 per cent of permanent residents in Whistler spend more than 30 per cent of their income on housing, compared to 22 per cent in 2006. And 48 per cent of seasonal workers spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, compared to 41 per cent in 2006.

“The portion of people that are spending more than 30 per cent of their gross income on housing has gone up over the last year,” said Dan Wilson, monitoring coordinator for Whistler 2020, adding that housing is the average Whistlerite’s greatest expense.

Wilson said the main reason people spend so much on housing is that there are more people trying to live in Whistler than there are beds available. This has lead to a shift in the supply and demand curve.

“Generally housing prices are set by supply and demand, and how much people are willing to pay for housing,” said Wilson.

“And the demand has probably been increasing. When you look at, for example, the number of rental listings in the paper, it has dropped dramatically in the last couple of years.”

Pique Newsmagazine’s classified section confirms Wilson’s observation. During the last week of June 2006, a total of 20 columns in the classified section were dedicated to long-term rentals. In 2007, that number dropped to 11 columns. And last week, there were only five columns.

In other words, the number of places available for rent in Whistler in June has decreased by a whopping 75 per cent over the past two years.

This has translated into higher rental prices.

Marla Zucht from the WHA said the average price to rent a studio apartment on Whistler’s unrestricted rental market has increased by 27 per cent since 2002. Two bedroom homes have increased by 16 per cent, three bedroom homes by 22 per cent, and single family houses by 19 per cent.

(Strangely, one-bedroom homes have actually decreased in price by four per cent since 2002.)

Okay, so with an unpromising rental market, what is a family like our fictional Reynolds supposed to do?

Should they buy a home?