“I’ve seen these incredible, kind, highly trained and desperately needed professionals kicked out of Whistler, leaving us with no trained first aiders, but unable to hire replacements because they have nowhere to live.”
The housing crisis in Whistler means something different to everyone. Lots of people roll their eyes and smile in amusement: “Housing has always been an issue in Whistler. “Whistler owes no one a house.” “It’s a problem everywhere.”
If a problem doesn’t concern you, why bother trying to solve it?
When I arrived in Whistler in 2015 to open the area’s only after-hours emergency vet clinic, tenants could still find housing. Now, it’s actually impossible for the average worker to find affordable rental housing. A one-bedroom suite with a six-month lease: $3,000+ a month (a full month’s salary from your Whistler workforce) with 100 applicants waiting. When the lease ends in six months, the search will be even worse than it was before. Rental inventory has evaporated over the past few years, with tenants being displaced when the unit is either sold out from under them or converted to Airbnb. The “hot real estate market” has wiped out Whistler’s rental inventory.
At one point I had an incredible team. My right hand and my left hand were trained and highly trained rescuers, and they were in turn supported by trained support staff. Above all, they were all really beautiful people, like angels. I watched helplessly as they were moved from one rental suite to another, working three jobs and still struggling to survive. I saw that they were moved from Whistler accommodation one last time, unable to find a suite to rent. One had no choice but to squat in the cold, dark, concrete basement of a local golf course (one of her other jobs); one had no choice but to move into a van. They loved Whistler but couldn’t hang on and eventually left for good. I saw these amazing, kind, highly skilled, and desperately needed professionals kicked out of Whistler, leaving us without trained first aiders, but unable to hire replacements because they had nowhere to live.
If you were going to a hockey game and only one player was on the ice, everyone would be like, “Where’s the team?” » Emergency care, like many essential services, requires a team. Imagine an ER doctor forced to use weekenders, tourists, and high school kids as emergency room back-ups — for surgery, anesthesia, CPR. Imagine the stress of trying to do the job of both a nurse and a doctor, the stress of watching my patients die when I know I could have saved them…if only I had my right hand . In a town teeming with furkids, there’s no longer an emergency vet in the Sea to Sky. The innocent are punished and suffer on the way to Vancouver.
All the while, people are laughing at the old “Whistler owes you no house” story, their favorite joke, repeated like a broken record. This is not a joke. How can you feel empowered to use community services – grocery stores, restaurants, schools, and medical services, without also understanding that the people providing these services must have a roof over their heads?
Our city’s staffing crisis and homelessness issues are really just political choices, a direct reflection of decades of minimization, sweeping under the rug and inadequate oversight. Just as easily as those choices created our current situation, we can choose something different – fast, emergent action, priorities, planning, a new narrative. The SS Whistler has grown from a small ship to a titanic cruise liner – it’s more than a gift shop and concession stand that can be manned by temporary foreign workers. To meet the needs of 3 million passengers, a huge permanent crew is needed, but you can’t get the crew out of their cabins and expect them to sleep in the ocean at night. Every worker in Whistler—every carpenter, every bus driver, every artist, every yoga teacher and dishwasher—every person in our community needs a place to sleep.
The housing problem may not affect you, but it does affect you.