The Mayor’s Task Force on Resident Housing gave Whistler council an update on its work at a council meeting last week.
One of the recommendations is to examine who’s eligible to purchase resident-restricted housing through the Whistler Housing Authority. Currently, waitlisters are only required to be of legal age, a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant, an employee who works at least 20 hours a week in Whistler (or a retiree). On top of that, neither the applicant nor their spouse can own real estate elsewhere.
That might have worked in Whistler for many years, but in today’s housing market —where finding an affordable home is less likely than, say, finding a unicorn smoking a cigar while enjoying a martini — we need to narrow down the pool.
As proof of this, Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden told The Question that the task force has seen instances where people are selling their home for millions and moving into resident-restricted housing. Others have purchased resident-restricted housing then rented it out and left town.
New rules, she said, will include cracking down on these abusers of the system — and it’s one that’s badly needed to keep this community running. One could argue that selling a market house — whether it earns you $1 million or more — still leaves you in a tight spot because there are few places to buy once you take the money and move out. But the fact of the matter is anyone selling a house in Whistler right now — even if it’s a ski shack from the ‘70s — is still cleaning up.
It’s hard to argue they should feel as equally entitled to resident-restricted housing as the long-time local who contributes to the understaffed workforce and scraped together enough for a down payment.
Right now, anyone who meets the above criteria can purchase WHA housing — no matter how much money they make. This might make sense when the goal is simply to keep 75 per cent of the workforce living in Whistler, but as supply dwindles and workers continue to get priced out of town it makes sense to ensure only those who really need this housing have access to it.
The time has come to introduce new rules to the WHA based on income. While it’s hard to predict the distant future when it comes to the housing market, it doesn’t appear to be slowing down any time soon. In the meantime, families continue to flee, causing big problems for our labour market and the makeup of the community.