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.
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.
The changes to employee rental housing through the Whistler Housing Authority include:
1. Eligible employee definition is refined.
Th 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.
2. Rent will be based on the financial situation of the household. This applies to only current applicants and new tenants of WHA rental units.
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.