Construction began on two new resident-restricted housing projects this week, which will collectively add 90 beds to the community's rental stock.
The projects, a 24-unit employee housing apartment building at 1020 Legacy Way in Cheakamus Crossing, and a 20-unit development at 8350 Bear Paw Trail in Rainbow that will be targeted at seniors, are expected to open next summer, said Jessica Averiss, operations manager for the Whistler Housing Authority (WHA). Both WHA rental projects will include a mix of one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. Rental prices will be in line with existing WHA inventory.
"It's a priority of the community, of the Whistler Housing Authority and the municipality to ensure that everyone has a place to live, and everyone is working towards that goal," Averiss added. The WHA has a longstanding target of housing at least 75 per cent of resort employees within the community.
The Cheakamus facility will be purpose-built to Passive House standards, a voluntary standard for energy efficiency intended to reduce a building's footprint.
Seniors (those over 55) will be given first right of refusal on units planned for the Rainbow project, before being turned over to the remainder of the WHA rental waitlist, making it the first seniors-targeted housing project in WHA history.
"It means that (seniors) don't have to leave town if they can't get affordable housing," said long-time resident Garry Watson, a member of the Mature Action Community Society (MAC) and a former Whistler Citizen of the Year, who lobbied extensively for the project.
The MAC, a local non-profit, had been working with the WHA for years to get a seniors housing project off the ground. It wasn't until Dick Reed, a friend of Watson's, and the manager of Kindred Construction, which has been contracted for the build, helped secure a $2-million-plus BC Housing grant that the project started to gain legs.
"(MAC members) were frustrated that in the last 13 years not much had happened to move the process forward, and I foolishly said to (Watson) that I would see what I could do," Reed said. "I didn't have much choice; Garry and I go back a long, long way."
Reed said several of the building's units have been designed specifically with seniors in mind, so "they can be easily modified if there's a need for some kind of accommodation for people that have lost some of their dexterity."
With limited reserves for WHA capital projects, the remainder of the estimated $10-million project cost will likely have to be secured through outside financing. The WHA's reserve fund currently sits at $18,000.
The WHA said it would host opening ceremonies for both projects closer to the anticipated move-in date.
The next WHA employee project in the works is also slated for Cheakamus Crossing, at 1330 Cloudburst Drive, expected to include 40 units. Winter 2020 is the anticipated opening date.