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Site work underway for new Whistler Blackcomb, Whistler Housing Authority builds

Feds financing housing builds in Whistler, Squamish, Bowen Island
From left: Whistler Sport Legacies’ (WSL) Roger Soane, Whistler Councillor Jen Ford, WSL’s Melanie Bitner, MP Patrick Weiler, and Bowen Island Mayor Andrew Leonard pose outside of WSL’s new build at 1315 Cloudburst Drive in Cheakamus.

As another winter approaches, Whistler’s housing woes are worse than they’ve been in recent memory—but a pair of projects getting underway this week could help ease the crunch in future years.

Whistler Blackcomb’s (WB) long-anticipated new staff housing building is one step closer to finally breaking ground, as tree clearing and other preliminary site work is now underway.

First proposed in 2019, once completed, the building will add 240 new staff-housing beds to WB’s stock.

“This endeavour remains one of our team’s top priorities as we work toward finalizing agreements with our project partners in order to begin construction,” said WB’s senior manager of communications Dane Gergovich.

“In the meantime, we have approval to start preliminary site preparations, including tree clearing, which is currently underway, with operations being staged in Parking Lot 6. As of now, our target completion date is fall 2025. We look forward to sharing more updates as things progress.”

Glacier 8, as it’s known, represents the largest injection of employee beds Whistler has seen in years—although it still only represents a small fraction of WB’s 4,000-plus workforce. When the project was first announced, WB said it housed 31 per cent of its staff internally. With the addition of Glacier 8, the company will house more than a third of its workforce.

Meanwhile, in Cheakamus Crossing, the Whistler Housing Authority (WHA) is starting work on its new 48-unit rental building at 1450 Mount Fee Road.

The $20-million project, the largest of five new WHA buildings constructed since 2018, will be ready for occupancy in the second half of 2024. Those on WHA’s rental waitlist will be given priority.

Minimum rents will start at $1,450 (studios), $1,850 (1 bedroom units), and $2,425 (2 bedroom units).

“From my personal experience, enrolling in the WHA program is the best way to achieve a sustainable life situation in this town, from both economical and stability perspectives,” said Raul Bautista, the rental housing representative on the WHA board, in a release. “I can’t recommend enough to the locals to join the WHA waitlists and encourage the Whistler Housing Authority to keep up the good work fighting the housing problem that is making communities struggle globally.”

The project is getting a boost from the federal government in the form of a low-interest loan—one of four recipients announced in Cheakamus on Oct. 13.

In total, nearly $90 million is being made available through the Canadian Government’s Rental Construction Financing Initiative (RCFi) to help pay for four different housing projects: two in Whistler, and one each in Squamish and Bowen Island.

As it relates to the new WHA build, the announcement covered $15.2 million in financing, with the Resort Municipality of Whistler contributing $1.5 million, and the WHA $3 million.

“We are well aware of how important every secure affordable bed is for employees of Whistler’s workforce, so the WHA is thrilled to be bringing another affordable rental housing project to the community,” said WHA’s general manager Marla Zucht, in the release. “With shovels in the ground now on this new WHA rental project, we are already turning our sights to future employee housing projects literally down the road from 1450 Mount Fee Road. We intend to keep the momentum going on our shared community goal of providing additional employee housing solutions and supply as we continue to grow and evolve Whistler’s Employee Housing Program.”

Also in Whistler, the announcement included $19.8 million in RCFi financing for 58 units at 1315 Cloudburst Drive. Completed in April, the project is overseen by the Whistler 2010 Sport Legacies Society, which contributed $8.7 million.

“Whistler has long recognized the importance of community support for housing our workforce locally. Now, more than ever, we see the housing crisis all around us in every community in B.C.,” said Whistler councillor and WHA board chair Jen Ford, in a release.

“This new build marks another step towards our community’s commitment to this endeavour as well as our climate goals.”

In Squamish, $45.7 million in RCFi will help pay for 105 units at 38115 Laurelwood Road. Bosa Properties is kicking in $15.8 million.

And on Bowen Island, the government is providing $8.75 million and $30,000 in seed funding for 25 units at 510 Bowen Island Trunk Road. Bandon Holdings Ltd. is contributing $383,800.

The RCFi provides fully repayable low-interest loans to encourage the construction of more purpose-built rental housing for middle-income Canadians, creating a positive impact to the housing system at minimal cost to taxpayers.

It’s just one program included in the government’s National Housing Strategy, which aims to invest more than $82 billion over 10 years.