RMOW committed to providing stable living arrangements for Whistler residents
The Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) will move forward with all of the Mayor’s Task Force on Resident Housing (the Task Force) recommendations outlined in a report to Council on December 19. The recommendations—several already underway—include increasing supply of workforce housing by over 1000 beds, and improving the use of existing land and homes within residential neighbourhoods.
Using an evidence-based approach, and broad input from the community (2295 respondents to housing needs survey and around 300 attendees at the recent Community Forum and 1300 watching on a livestream) the Task Force developed seven recommendations to address Whistler’s employee housing challenges and provide diverse housing options appropriate to the community’s needs. Implementation of these recommendations represents the opportunity to deliver more than 1000 resident restricted beds over the next five years.
“Whistler has always emphasized the importance of resident housing and we have been successful in housing 75 per cent of our workforce within our municipal boundaries,” said Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden. “And in order to continue to do so, with the pressures that started to become more evident in 2016, we knew we needed to rally to look at a variety of short and long term solutions. Some of these projects were fast tracked earlier in the process and have already delivered results.”
The RMOW has provided its own lands to develop new resident-restricted homes through its subsidiary the Whistler Housing Authority (WHA). The WHA’s recently occupied rental apartment building at 1310 Cloudburst Drive will provide new housing for 84 occupants, and three additional WHA development projects are in progress, which will add an additional 150 employee rental beds between the winter of 2018 and 2019. The addition of an anticipated 234 new beds represents a more than 50 per cent increase in WHA rentals. There is also planning underway for the expansion of the Cheakamus Crossing neighbourhood, which will add further resident restricted housing inventory over time.
Allowing the opportunity for private developers to build new purpose built rental apartments could add up to another 550 beds for Whistler’s workforce. By the private sector contributing to new employee rental housing, more beds can be made available faster and the geographic location of new homes can be more dispersed in the community.
Infill housing, which supports additional employee restricted auxiliary dwellings, could add up to 50 new resident dwellings within existing residential neighbourhoods. Carefully considering increased densification in existing neighbourhoods will help to mitigate the loss of market homes that have historically been available to the local workforce for rental and homeownership.
New business license regulations were introduced in July 2017 to ensure residential properties are not used for tourist accommodations. RMOW bylaw enforcement staff are actively investigating properties in contravention of the new bylaw to ensure that residentially-zoned properties are being used for their intended residential purpose. Whistler has 8800 units of purpose built tourist accommodation of all types zoned for nightly rentals for resort visitors.
Some in-progress resident housing recommendations include the Home Run program to match resort businesses with home owners, and updates to development cost charges to ensure that new construction developments are contributing towards new employee housing. “Housing is a community-wide responsibility,” added the Mayor. “It will take the public and private sector working together to deliver these recommended actions and outcomes.”
Progress on the Task Force recommendations has been swift since receiving community feedback. Guidelines were endorsed by Council on December 5, 2017 that will facilitate private sector led employee housing developments on private lands. The requirements include employee occupancy and rent restrictions, community planning considerations and development standards. The RMOW is currently reviewing a proposal for private development of multi-family rentals on private lands, which could add up to 222 new beds within walking distance of the Whistler Creekside. It received Council authorization on December 19 for further review and processing.
In 2018, the WHA’s resident restricted housing program will be further refined, including some changes to eligibility criteria and new municipal enforcement tools, to protect employee housing in perpetuity.
The RMOW is committed to delivering affordable housing and is working diligently with partners, relevant senior levels of government, business employers, and private developers to provide a diverse range of secure living arrangements for Whistler residents.
For more information about housing initiatives in Whistler, visit whistler.ca/housing.
About the Mayor’s Task Force on Resident Housing
The Mayor’s Task Force on Resident Housing is a committee of Council established in November 2016, charged with the objective to address the increased demand for resident housing in Whistler. After extensive community consultation, actions were established to optimize the current housing supply and identify additional housing initiatives to overcome the current challenges. The Task Force’s primary objective is to maintain Whistler’s target of housing 75 per cent of its workforce locally, by ensuring appropriate and affordable housing supply for both permanent and seasonal staff, through the creation of flexible and diverse housing options.