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Whistler housing crunch is no more

82 per cent of workforce called Whistler home last winter



The housing demon that has plagued Whistler for years has finally been wrestled to the ground.

The feeling of satisfaction from the council table was almost palpable with the news that for the first time ever, in the 14 years of surveys, Whistler employers are finally saying there are no housing shortages.

"It feels really good to be in this place," said a pleased Mayor Ken Melamed.

"It speaks volumes to the commitment the community has placed on this issue."

The general manager of the Whistler Housing Authority Marla Zucht presented the 14 th annual 2011 Employer Housing Needs Assessment to council Tuesday.

This was the first year, said Zucht, where a lack of accommodation was not cited as a reason for staff shortages.

Indeed, just seven per cent of businesses surveyed were unable to meet staffing needs last winter, down significantly from the high of 30 per cent in 2007/08. That translates to 30 unfilled positions compared to 600 unfilled positions four years ago.

The statistic she said she is the most proud of, however, is the fact that 82 per cent of Whistler's workforce was housed within the resort boundaries in the past winter season, or 9,600 people.

That is well above Whistler's long-time goal of housing about 75 per cent of the workforce.

Councillor Ralph Forsyth recalled council pulling its hair out as it struggled to solve Whistler's housing woes in past years.

The employee housing waitlist was growing by the day and reports of cramped living conditions for seasonal workers were making headlines every year.

In recent years, several housing projects have come to fruition, most notably the athletes' village, which brought on more than 200 units this past year.

The mayor recognized the work from community members and the volunteer time of housing authority boards over the years, which made it possible to achieve the housing goals.

Along with Zucht, the mayor will be speaking to 150 planners in Vancouver today (Sept. 22) at Simon Fraser University about how Whistler has addressed its housing challenges.