Recently, watching multiple beds being taken into a home that was formerly a bed and breakfast concerned at least one of its Garibaldi Highland's neighbours.
Neighbour Peder Ourom soon discovered that the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler was renting the Glacier View Drive 6,000-square-foot home for some of its seasonal workers.
Ourom says he is concerned both for the employees who will live there and for local families who are desperate for housing, but can't find it.
"Why aren't those suites rented out to the desperate [Squamish] people in need," he said. "If that were two couples that work in Squamish ... it'd be great when we're desperate for a lot of accommodation, and there's almost none."
It also doesn't sit well with Ourom that employees for an established hotel that is majority owned by billionaire Bill Gates’s company have to be shuttled up and down the highway to Whistler.
"It seems to me it's not the best for the employees," he said, arguing the hotel should build enough worker housing in the town where they work for its employees.
Carolina Pires, director of public relations for the hotel, told The Squamish Chief that it houses 50% of its workforce.
"We have a well-established employee housing model, including employee housing onsite within the resort, and in many offsite homes in Whistler and the surrounding community," Pires said in an emailed statement.
"Our housing model in Squamish aligns with our existing, well-established housing model, including addressing concerns such as safety, security, noise control and parking."
Pires said there is a formal lease regarding the rental of the home in Squamish. She added that the hotel is working with the District of Squamish "to ensure the usage of the home is in compliance with all bylaws and zoning regulations."
While Ourom told The Squamish Chief he thought he saw close to 40 beds going into the home, Pires said that number was way off.
"The maximum number of people allowed per bedroom is two employees — following bylaws — therefore, the number … is very inaccurate."
She did not say how many employees would be living there, but a real estate listing for the home states there are seven bedrooms total.
"Two additional one-bedroom suites with private entrances ... plus five bed/five bath in the main home," the listing reads. It also says there are six parking spots.
As of Dec. 11, Pires noted there are no employees at the house yet.
The District told The Squamish Chief that it has heard the concerns from the public regarding a property on Glacier View Drive and is conducting an investigation, including working with the tenant, to make sure that the property meets District and BC Building Code requirements.
“The District does not control who lives in a dwelling unit, as long as it is being used for residential purposes. The District’s role is to ensure compliance within the BC Building Code through building permitting process so that all buildings comply with provincial safety and health requirements, including fire safety requirements,” said District spokesperson Rachel Boguski.
The District’s building department is responsible for enforcing municipal bylaws, and enforcement practices vary depending upon the nature of the offence. These range from posted notices to fines to educational discussions and, hopefully, voluntary compliance. Ultimately, life safety is the primary concern, Boguski added.
“We know that a percentage of our local workforce travels outside of Squamish for work, so in some ways Squamish has been housing a portion of the regional workforce for quite some time,” said Mayor Armand Hurford in an email to The Squamish Chief. “That said, housing availability and affordability continue to be a major concern in Squamish and the need for a regional approach is crucial to prevent larger scale ‘ spillover’ of unmet housing needs. Collectively we can do better, and I’m looking forward to working on this with my council colleagues and counterparts regionally and provincially.”
The Squamish Chief also asked if the District is aware of how many other out-of-town employee housing there is in Squamish, but this is not something the municipality is able measure or track.
"Nor do we have the mechanisms to do so if it were desired," Boguski said.
**Please note that this story has been updated since it was first published to add that the District does not know how many other houses are being used for out-of-town employees.