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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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And they’re anxious to get on with it because there’s a recognition in the hall that we’ve been focused on other things and it’s time to wrap that up, time to move on to some of the other priorities that are present.

You might (ask) was there political will in the hall six months ago?

I would argue that perhaps there wasn’t six months ago, that council wasn’t as focused on the housing issue as they should have been because we were too focused on other things. Staff wasn’t as focused on the housing issue because staff was too focused on other things and we had a shortage of staff. But I think that this is on everybody’s radar in a big way now.

Q: The athletes village in the Lower Cheakamus will take up less than 100 acres of the 300 acre land bank. Can you access the rest of the land bank at any time?

A: Sure. We haven’t optioned the land yet but what we’ve done is gone from one end of the valley to the other end of the valley and we’ve come up with a set of criteria in terms of slopes and parcel sizes and access to roads and schools and that sort of thing. And then what we’ve done is literally drawn red lines around any parcel that we might potentially consider optioning. And by that I mean any parcel that meets that criteria. …There’s a whole bunch of well placed, densely packed potential parcels up by Alpine. So OK, do we really want to double the size of Alpine? Or there are parcels down on Cheak South. So we want to put a bunch more housing down there? There are parcels scattered round the community. Do we want to do some smaller developments around the community? And with the studies that we’re doing in terms of demand and type, that’s what we’re trying to get to.

Once we sort that out we can start making some decisions and start exercising some options and if it makes planning sense, we can start building some stuff, or somebody can start building some stuff.

Q: You see a different kind of need for employee housing in Whistler, one that addresses the mid- to upper-management employee. Tell me how Whistler could address their needs.

A: It’s not that I want to expend public resources and create an opportunity for people who are already wealthy… But the concern I have is just looking at the market dynamics and what’s going on in that middle sector of our economy. There are primarily two people that occupy that sector. They’re either business people, and that includes professionals, consultants, or they’re middle- to upper-level management people. And the fundamental concern I have is that I talk to these people and I know that these people are looking around (and seeing opportunities in other communities). And if we allow this leakage to continue, yeah we might not see it in the next two or three years but I guarantee you that if we don’t do something to address this leakage, 20 years from now this community will be either single family homes that sit empty except when their absentee owners or their guests occupy them at one end of the spectrum and at the other end of the spectrum we’ll have people that occupy employee housing. And there will be nothing in between because all of these people will have left town because their properties will have become so valuable that the lure to simply cash out and go somewhere else and enjoy a darn nice lifestyle will become irresistible. And it’s already happened in other mountain communities.