At the end of June, I moved to Whistler to become a news reporter at Pique.
And while landing the job, moving to a community I love, and joining a team of whip-smart reporters feels like a dream, finding a good place to live has been a total nightmare.
I kicked off my search by going through online classifieds. Of the 10 people I messaged, eight told me the room had been filled. And another two told me that they were living abroad and that I should drive by their place and let them know if I was interested; it felt sketchy.
A cousin suggested I join two Whistler Facebook groups dedicated to housing. This is "how locals find places," she assured me.
The price for a one bedroom is outrageous. So I posted a note, saying I'd be down to share a place. Within hours, I got a message from a guy — who looked like he was about 14 years old — with "a room in a 2bedrooms apartment on nesters road. IN front of the bus stop. 0.5km to IGA. 150 meters to grocery store. Best location!"
I jumped at it, and asked if he'd be willing to chat by phone.
An hour later, he called me and told me that he was renting the place on behalf of his parents, and that the room (not just the apartment) was shared. Eight-hundred dollars a month to share a room? No thanks.
The only place I could find was through a family connection, a friend of my mom's rents rooms in her Whistler home.
I was happy to find it, even though living with someone three decades my senior, her mother, and a revolving door of other boarders is not exactly what I envisioned.
During a visit, my mom — who never passes up an opportunity to make me squirm —brought up a story idea that my features editor had suggested that day: A first-person piece that would "explore the dating scene in Whistler."
In the kitchen after dinner, the matriarch of my new home — a quick-witted Montrealer who's rented rooms for years — informed me of the "house rules."
There are, she explained, no overnight guests.
Almost a thousand dollars a month, and I can't have anyone over?
"No," she replied, putting her hand on my shoulder. "Those are the rules."
The next day, I started seeing what else was out there.
One place looked promising — or at the least, not a total rip-off.
A 300 sq. foot studio apartment in a dumpy building with this weird, horizontal window that looks out on the hallway.
It was cramped, lacked a proper stove and ventilation, and had all the charm of two-star motel. But it was fairly clean, and at $950 a month, a steal by Whistler standards.
Desperation — a sentiment that is shared by all Whistler renters — was setting in.
I spent a weekend agonizing over my decision. But one of my new roommates eventually tipped the scale. The landlord might say the room is quiet, and it may be for now, he explained. But what happens when five lifties cram into the apartment next door and start partying until five in the morning? You'll hate your life, bro.
I decided to stay put. And I'm glad I did. The woman and her mom are kind, and it's cool to see how they take full advantage of the Whistler lifestyle — they golf, enjoy Sunday markets, and cycle and swim. I'll keep my eyes open for other places, but for now I'm content.
My story is, of course, not out of the ordinary. And because of it, I find myself looking at locals differently, with a newfound appreciation for what they have to endure just to call this place home.
In an interview with Pique's "Mountain Mythic" podcast at the start of last winter, Jackie Dickinson — a program manager with the Whistler Community Services Society — described just how bad it's become, how forced evictions and predatory pricing have become commonplace.
The housing crisis is "affecting the wellbeing and infrastructure of this place," she explained. "And I'm worried about what that means."
Correction: In last week's Pique'n, the column stated potential blood donors must be Canadian citizens. In fact, potential donors just need to show valid identification. Pique regrets any confusion the error may have caused.