Housing is major mogul for Whistler workers
Seated in the center of Whistler's busy village square, Jessica and Gabrielle are working as buskers to get by.
But they're looking for more than just attention and a handout from tourists. Both arrived in Whistler without a place to live.
"It's so hard. It's so expensive," says Jessica.
Monday marks the beginning of welcome week in Whistler, a time of year when hundreds like Jessica and Gabrielle arrive looking for work and a place to stay.
The number of employees Whistler needs to operate has gone up by several hundred this year, but employers are having a hard time finding workers because of the housing shortage. At Wednesday's annual job fair many positions will be on offer, but in order to call Whistler home this season, snow enthusiasts must fight it out for a limited number of rental units.
Matt Telfer arrived in the resort town just days ago, but he's already advertising his plight on a sandwich board-styled cardboard box.
"Everyplace you go and see -- I think I've seen three places -- I'm always the twenty-fifth person there," he says.
An annual survey of businesses found that nearly 30 per cent of employers were unable to meet staffing needs last season, and the problems only expected to get worse, as the price of housing goes up and the Olympics draw near.
Sebastien Mireault has lived in Whistler for the last six months and says the upcoming Olympics, coupled with high demand, has forced up the worth of his residence.
"Our place was worth $1,300 and now its at $3,200," he says.
The so-called container housing project was supposed to be a solution to the Whistler housing crisis. But so far, nothing has been built. The project fell through in mid-September when the US builder failed to get financing.
The project would have housed as many as 300 employees, roughly the number of additional workers that businesses anticipate will be needed to keep Whistler running this season. Intrawest insists it already has homes for the employees hired to service ski operations.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Sarah Galashan