News » Whistler

We're working on it

by

comment

Page 2 of 4

Hosner emphasized the importance of seasonal housing for the long-term sustainability of the resort.

"We can’t have guests asking employees what it’s like to live in Whistler and them saying they don’t know because they can’t afford to live here."

Doug Forseth, senior manager for Whistler-Blackcomb, spoke about an "obvious misunderstanding on the need for housing" in the municipal staff report on the Whistler 3 project.

Forseth said: "As much as we need employee beds, I’m not an advocate for beds at any cost. But I encourage you to take a look at the needs. The business community hasn’t been at the table in the past; we are now."

Each council member then responded. Kristi Wells, chair of the Whistler Housing Authority, said the WHA will be releasing its business plan at the end of June. She made the point that housing authority’s original goal of housing 80 per cent of Whistler’s workforce within the municipality is probably not possible.

"We have to clarify our role," Wells said of the housing authority board. "We are not an elected authority to make decisions on individual projects. We have to be creative, using out-of-the-box thinking over the next couple of years.

"We also have to realize we will never solve the problem."

Wells referred to "capacity issues" in the valley.

Ken Melamed said he was moved by the level of concern expressed.

"I think if people see a reluctance of council to move ahead with the speed people want, that’s accurate. It doesn’t mean we’re treating the problem any less seriously."

But Melamed elicited calls of "shame, shame" when he said: "The solution we’ve chosen doesn’t seem to be working… We can’t build our way out of this problem."

He compared the employee housing situation to that of a highway, where the more lanes are constructed the more cars are on the road.

"We have 7,000 employees in private housing now. When those houses are torn down do we build 7,000 more employee bed units?" Melamed asked.

"The development cap is out of hand now," he said. "We need to work within the existing infrastructure. We need to uphold our principles. We can’t abandon our community plan."

Melamed said council was working on the employee housing situation but: "Since I’ve been on council it’s been one urgent employee housing need after another. We didn’t spend four years devising environmental strategies… (and other strategies) to throw it out the window to solve one problem."