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The once and future housing solution

New chair Nick Davies discusses the opportunities, priorities and directions for the Whistler Housing Authority

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I think part of the problem is that the Comprehensive Sustainability Plan has taken so much of our time and so much of our energy and so much of our focus. There’s a clear feeling amongst council and staff that we’ve got to get that finished, we’ve got to get it off the table because there are other things that we’ve got to be dealing with. A really interesting question is: should the sustainability plan have taken that much time and energy? My personal view is that we could have done more and we can do more. Just because we’re working on a huge project like the sustainability plan doesn’t mean that we can’t be doing other things. There have been some practical constraints because we’ve had some empty seats at municipal hall. But now we’ve got those people. Those seats are full. We (still) don’t have a housing planner, but there’s no reason why we couldn’t contract that position.

And it’s time to get on with it.

Q: How do you envision the municipality delivering housing from now until the Olympics in 2010?

A: That’s an interesting question – that’s why we’ve been doing some of the research that we’ve been doing. Clearly there was a need for housing so clearly negotiating for a land bank was a good strategy, because it’s a huge advantage for the community to have a land bank, whether we use it all now or we use it over the next 100 years.

But… we’ve really got to think about this because if we continue to meet the demand between now and 2010, then is there going to be a demand in 2010 or are we going to build a bunch of permanent employee housing that there won’t be a market for? Or is it feasible to build no housing now and then flood the market in 2010? I don’t think that’s an alternative. And so the reason we’ve undertaken the research we have and that we’re still undertaking is to sort out exactly how we do this – how do we deliver housing between now and 2010 and then take advantage of the 2010 opportunity?

One way to do it might be to build some of… the athletes village before 2010. This isn’t a strategy that we’ve really kicked around but it seems feasible that we could build some housing and maybe we rent it until 2010 and we say to those people "look your rental tenancy is going to end on Dec. 31, 2009." And then… we use it for the Games and then it becomes a rental opportunity again, or maybe it becomes an ownership opportunity again. I don’t know. But what I do know is that we can’t just blindly build housing now and then think we’re going to build a bunch more housing in 2010.