Whistler task force looks to address 'serious' rental housing crunch
'There's lots of empty houses in Whistler, which is a little ironic now that we have this housing crunch'
Working on the world-class ski slopes of Whistler is a dream come true for many people but finding a place to live in the resort town is nothing short of a nightmare.
Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden describes the situation as "pretty serious," which is why a new Mayor's Task Force on Housing and Affordability is poised to make recommendations to address a problem which has been made worse by a booming local economy and local workforce that has grown 30 per cent in the last five years.
"We're hearing anecdotes about the difficulty of finding a place to live," Wilhelm-Morden said.
"Employers are telling us they're having difficulty finding staff because if people don't have a place to live they don't get hired," said Wilhelm-Morden.
One idea the task force will look at would take aim at property owners who flaunt zoning bylaws that prohibit Airbnb-type short-term rentals by introducing a business licence requirement.
"We have lots and lots of short-term rental beds available in the village but in the neighbourhoods, those places are meant for permanent residents or employees renting.
"They're not for nightly rentals," said Wilhelm-Morden.
"Of course permits will only be issued to those people who have properly zoned nightly rental places. So if you go into Airbnb or VRBO (another short-term rental company) and you don't have a business licence, then you will be fined and prohibited from doing that in the future."
A second recommendation could see the Chamber of Commerce become a rental accommodation facilitator — leasing homes that sit empty most of the time, then turning around and renting them out to workers in need of a place to live.
Lots of empty houses
"We have people who own a property to use maybe two weeks in the summer and two weeks in the winter," said Wilhelm-Morden. "So if we could rent that property from Jan 1 to April 30 through this facilitation process then that would assist us as well."
"There's lots or empty houses here in Whistler which is a little ironic now that we have this housing crunch," she said.
One hundred new rental units came on stream earlier this fall in the Rainbow neighbourhood and 100 more are scheduled to open next year in Cheakamus Crossing — not nearly enough to alleviate the problem.
In September, the Whistler Housing Authority reported a waiting list of 500.
It advises that anyone planning to move to Whistler should first secure a place to live. It also advises that people only accept a job in the area from an employer that offers staff accommodation.