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, a need was identified to review the current criteria relating to eligibility and how that is enforced. This initiative addresses the community concerns raised about the employee eligibility qualifications and misuse of employee restricted homes and 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.
The following set out the proposed directional changes with the specific details as a work in progress to be shared with Council and the community in June. The proposed changes seek to ensure that current and future (ownership and rental) housing provided continues to reach those it was intended for, and is focused on four key areas:
1. Eligible employee definition is proposed to be refined such that an individual would be required to:
- Work full time for a minimum average of 30 hours per week throughout the year, or minimum of 1,560 hours per year (from the current minimum average of 20 hours per week throughout the year);
- Be employed in Whistler with employment that justifies residing in Whistler.
These proposed changes are in addition to the requirement that all applicants be Canadian citizens or permanent residents. Establishing a single waitlist for all those wishing to access rental housing, and a single waitlist for purchase opportunities would be preferred. This would replace the current processes that are in place for seniors which are separate to the general waitlists.
2. Introduction of income categories such that access to employee restricted housing is based on a household’s ability to pay. This applies to both rental and ownership applicants
The amount a household could pay is a key consideration in ensuring a fair process in accessing non-market employee housing. It is proposed to consider both the income of a household, as well as the net assets owned, in determining one’s need to have access to employee housing.
3. Maintain "no real estate ownership"
- Requirement to sell market homes will be maintained and, in addition, applicants would be required to meet the financial criteria (per income categories and asset limits as described above);
- Asset limits would consider other (non-real estate) asset classes as well.
It is proposed to have a much more robust enforcement of the requirements for use of employee housing. Verification would be expected 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.