Recommendation #7: Employee Restricted Housing Program Refinement
Status: IN PROGRESS 2019
Refine the employee restricted program, in particular eligibility criteria and enforcement framework.
As part of the Mayor’s Task Force, the need was identified to review the current criteria for employee housing eligibility and how it is enforced. This initiative addresses community concerns raised about employee eligibility qualifications and misuse of employee restricted homes to ensure a fair process for Whistler residents to access non-market housing.
The Resort Municipality established the Whistler Housing Authority as a wholly owned subsidiary in 1997 with the objective to provide housing for resort employees. That intent continues today with employee restricted housing inventory available to those who meet certain criteria, including meeting the definition of an employee.
Phase 1: Rental Eligibility and Qualification
The first phase of changes, outlined in the policy adopted by council on July 23, 2019, support additional resourcing for eligibility enforcement, implementing business processes for greater efficiency and consistency, and updates the eligibility and qualification rules for rental inventory applicants and new tenants.
The changes adopted on July 23, 2019, plus work currently in progress for purchase eligibility and qualification, seek to ensure that current and future (ownership and rental) housing continues to be available for employees that are contributing to Whistler’s resort economy.
A public WHA Rental Housing Information Session was held on August 22nd, 2019. Community members learnt about the new policy and rental housing construction projects currently underway in Rainbow and Cheakamus. WHA and RMOW staff, WHA board members and representative of council were in attendance to answer any questions and listen to feedback. You can find the presentation here: 2019-08-22 Public Information Session Rental Housing
For those on the waitlist for WHA rental units as of July 24, 2019, there will be a grace period up until December 31st, 2020 where they can remain on the rental waitlist and maintain their position if they do not meet the new eligibility qualifications. However, lease agreements will only be offered to applicants that meet the new criteria. After December 31, 2020 all applicants on the waitlist must meet eligibility and qualification requirements, or they will be removed.
Watch the full presentation to council on July 23, 2019 by starting the video at 7:36 p.m. or view the presentation slides here: 2019-07-23 Presentation on Employee Rental Housing Policy K-01
For more information or to read the WHA’s list of Frequently Asked Questions, visit the Whistler Housing Authority website.
The changes to employee rental housing through the Whistler Housing Authority include 1 through 4, listed below.
The definition of an employee has been revised from a person working a minimum average of 20 hours a week to a minimum average of 30 hours per week on an annualized basis and who works for a qualifying Whistler business. A qualifying Whistler business is one that has a business license from the RMOW, has a business premises physically located in Whistler that primarily serves the Whistler community including residents, homeowners, businesses and tourists with goods and/or services provided within the boundaries of the municipality.
These proposed changes are in addition to the requirement that all applicants be Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
This change does not apply to tenants who held a current lease with the WHA prior to July 24, 2019. Only new leases any existing tenants may choose to sign, and all (existing or new) applicants and tenancy agreements must meet the new eligibility requirements.
The amount a household could pay is a key consideration in ensuring a fair process for accessing non-market employee housing. Both the income of a household, as well as the net assets owned are considered in determining one’s need to have access to employee rental housing, and the amount the household will pay in rent.
Implementing a revised rental housing program criteria includes charging rents with reference to income categories, establishing maximum incomes and asset limits and unit eligibility based on household makeup.
The asset limits include both real estate and other assets such as investments in financial markets, tax free savings accounts or GICs. Investments in RRSPs and RESPs are not considered when calculating household assets.
This change does not apply to tenants who held a current lease with the WHA prior to July 24, 2019. Only new leases any existing tenants may choose to sign, and all (existing or new) applicants and tenancy agreements must meet the income category qualification requirements after July 24, 2019.
Gross Household Income is the total income of all applicant(s) and adult occupants. Income from secondary applicants and all occupants are included
Calculated using: Total Income. Most commonly detailed on line 150 from the latest year’s income tax form for all occupants, with adjustments for items such as deductible home based business expenses and losses on business income.
Included as Income:
- Employment, including regular overtime, vacation pay and gratuities
- Self-employment, including commission sales
- Seasonal employment
- Employment Insurance and WorkSafe BC insurance
- Training allowances
- Income Assistance
- Income from the Resettlement Assistance Program
- Alimony and/or other ongoing support from family/ friends/ community
- Rental income from real estate or dividends from stocks or bonds, if the Real Monthly Income is greater than the Imputed Income from the Asset (See Income from Assets for more information)
- Pension incomes including: Old Age Security, Guaranteed Income Supplement, Allowance, and Allowance for the Survivor (formerly Spousal Allowance)
- Senior’s Supplement
- Private pension plans including:
- Registered Retirement Income Funds
- Canada Pension Plan — including retirement, disability, widows, etc. (CPP orphans and
- disability for child included for calculations with an effective date prior to April 1, 2018)
- Foreign Pensions
Excluded as Income:
- Earning of dependent children aged 18 and under (regardless of student status)
- Earnings of children age 19-24 who are full time students
- Student loans, equalization payments, student grants and scholarships
- Taxable benefits, including living out or travel allowances, medical coverage, uniform allowance, etc.
- Rental Assistance Payments
- Canada Child Tax Benefits, including the Canada Child Tax Benefit, Child Disability Benefit, BC Family Bonus, Universal Child Care Benefits and BC Earned Income Benefit
- Child support, and other benefits intended for the benefit of children (CPP orphans and disability for child, WorkSafe BC child benefits and Public Guardian and Trustee payment for children, Post Adoption Allowance, etc.)
- BC Childcare Subsidy
- Income from foster parenting
- Child in Home of Relative and Extended Family Program
- GST and Income Tax rebates
- War Veteran’s Allowance and Disability Pension from Veteran’s Affairs Canada
Gross Household Income for the current year’s rental review, will be determined by the lower of:
- The most recent year’s income; or
- An average of the past 2 years
Types of Documentation required
The onus is on the applicant to provide documentation to support their application. Applications where documentation is not provided may not be processed.
Specific documentation that may be required include:
Copy of Notice of Assessment and copy of Detailed Income Tax Return (T1) for the last tax year.
For income reported on the Detailed Income Tax Return, additional supporting documentation may be required, such as:
- T4 slips for all employment income
- Statements for Investment Income including dividends, interest and other income
- Statement of Rental Estate rentals
- Corporate Notice of Assessment, and
- T1178 General Index of Financial Information short form, and
- T2 Schedule 1, and
- T2 Corporate Tax Return, and
- T2 Schedule 50 Shareholder Information (if the resident owns less than 100 per cent of the company), or ,
- Financial statements if the business is in the first year of operation and a tax return has not yet been filed, as determined on a case by case basis Calculate income from this type of self-employment using the same steps as Regular Employment Income.
Assets for all applicants and occupants are included.
Assets that are included for valuation are:
- Cash, bonds, stocks, mutual funds and term deposits,
- Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSA),
- Real estate equity, net of debt,
- Business equity in a private incorporated company, including GICs, cash, stocks, bonds or real estate equity
Assets that are excluded from valuation include:
- Personal items such as vehicles, jewelry and furniture,
- Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) and Registered Disability Savings Plans (RDSPs),
- For applicants that are currently students: Bursaries or scholarships from educational institutions,
- Trade and business tools such as farm equipment, vehicles or specialized tools that are essential to currently active employment,
- Assets derived from compensatory packages from government,
- Private registered pension plans.
Types of Documentation required
All members of a household will be required to submit their net asset information to be reviewed when determining the category under which their household qualifies.
All applicants within a household will be required to submit current personal and/or business financial statement(s) from the previous two years in order to verify their current holdings, including:
- Copy of Notice of Assessment and copy of Detailed Income Tax Return (T1) for the last 2 years,
- Statements, receipts, records, appraisals and any other documents verifying the value of all real and personal property (excluding those specified in the net asset definition) and contract rights owned by applicants;
- Current appraisals of tax valuations of real property and related loan obligations – such as bank mortgage statements, property assessment notices;
- Documents verifying all applicant’s household debts and obligations pertinent to qualification including copies of all loan agreements and other financial statements verifying financial obligations; and
- Copy of court-approved temporary orders and final financial orders, including maintenance, child support, and property settlements, and child custody orders with exhibits and supplements.
The definition of retiree for employee housing in Whistler has changed from working five of the last six years to 10 of the last 12 years prior to ceasing active full-time employment in Whistler. Seniors will still have priority to purpose-built seniors’ residences. The seniors (55+ employees and retirees) waitlist procedure will be aligned with the standard general waitlist process and eligibility.
The new definition of ‘retiree’ does not apply to tenants who held a current lease with the WHA prior to July 24, 2019. Only new leases any existing tenants may choose to sign, and all (existing or new) applicants and tenancy agreements must meet the new definition of Retiree from July 24, 2019 onward.
There will be more robust enforcement of the eligibility requirements for employee housing. Verification will be required, with the onus on the applicant to provide documentation such as local employment contracts to verify meeting employment criteria, pay slips and/or tax returns to substantiate income, and other documentation to support asset holdings etc.
Additional penalties are being considered such that the Whistler Housing Authority can more proactively enforce the current and future proposed requirements.
These changes are being proposed to ensure continued provision of employee housing is for those it was intended: local employees who do not have the financial means to access market homes. Employee housing is such an asset for the Whistler community, so it is essential that the significant investments that have been (and are currently being) made into employee housing continue to be available for use by employees who need it, and that their use is optimized as effectively as possible.
Find out more about the Mayors Task Force on Resident Housing.