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WHA poised to make policy changes

Removal of five per cent cap on annual price increase considered



By Alison Taylor

After a series of roundtable discussions and forums for community feedback, the Whistler Housing Authority is considering several changes to its housing policies.

Chief among the proposed changes is the elimination of the five per cent cap on annual price escalation on units under the new Core Consumer Price Index.

“The argument (to remove the cap) being, if inflation goes above five per cent then we shouldn’t be holding down the units,” WHA general manager Marla Zucht said Tuesday after an eight-hour board of directors meeting.

But, she added, the proposed change to this policy and some others, didn’t come easily.

“None of it was simple by any means,” she said.

“We heard both sides of the issue on all of these.”

The WHA and some of its policies came under attack this summer after it proposed to remove the formula tying some housing projects to the Vancouver market.

The WHA solution was that upon resale homes would switch to the more conservative CCPI formula, which tied escalation to a modest two per cent, depending on inflation. The WHA also imposed a five per cent cap.

Their goal was to combat the wildly escalating values of the price restricted homes. But it caused a backlash in the community, which came to a head at a meeting in July.

Since then, more than 100 community members have offered feedback to the WHA, both in an online survey and at four separate roundtable discussions.

Removing the five per cent cap, while it could mean house values soar if inflation jumps, is an attempt to assuage some of the worries in the resident housing community.

Other changes the board has agreed to consider are relaxing the three strike policy for waitlisters who are forced to go to the bottom of the 500-long waitlist if they refused three units.

The policy still applies but the WHA will consider exceptional circumstances. For example, if someone is offered a WHA place but it’s more than their mortgage pre-approval amount, a strike will not count against them.

“We are not there to create stress in people’s lives,” said Zucht. “But we do want to get an indication of who’s serious and who’s not buying.”

The WHA is also considering changing its rental restriction policy to give owners the chance to rent their home for six months every year.

The one-year employment eligibility is also on the chopping block to allow businesses to recruit employees with an added incentive they can buy a price-restricted home in Whistler as long as they are working there.

And, the WHA is considering a policy to allow homes to be transferred to heirs, as long as the children meet the eligibility requirements in that they are working and living in Whistler.

The draft policy changes are available for review on the housing authority’s web site at . There will also be a mail out to resident housing owners and waitlist applicants.

The WHA welcomes more feedback on the proposed changes by Dec. 15. Zucht will then take the final recommendations to council for approval in the new year.

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