The Whistler Housing Authority’s (WHA) annual housing report is in, and it’s good news for resort businesses, with a slight increase in employee numbers over the past winter season.
The Employer Housing Needs Assessment provides a snapshot of Whistler’s employment characteristics and the housing needs of the resort’s workforce. Data was tracked for the 2012/13 winter season, with 204 businesses responding, representing 78 per cent of Whistler’s workforce.
This past winter, the resort workforce represented 12,200 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees, a two per cent increase for the second year in a row, up from record low numbers in 2011. More than 10,000 of those FTE positions were full-time employees, with 1,700 part-time employees making up the rest.
Whistler’s seasonal workforce was made up of 4,600 FTE employees, accounting for 38 per cent of the resort’s total workforce. This total includes 3,600 full-time positions and 1,000 made up of part-time workers.
Whistler’s projected workforce totals paint a slightly less promising picture, with the survey forecasting 12,100 FTE positions for the 2013/14 winter season, an 0.8 per cent drop from last year. The projected totals for small businesses, categorized as those with five or less employees, showed significant growth, with a six per cent projected increase in the workforce. Meanwhile, medium businesses are projecting a decrease of 0.7 per cent in their employee totals, while large businesses are showing a decline of 0.9 per cent.
Only five per cent of local employers were unable to meet their staffing requirements during the winter season, identical to last year’s levels. This marked the fifth year in a row that staffing shortages in the resort have decreased form a high of 30 per cent in the 2007/08 season.
“The main reasons for shortages when we asked the businesses … were related to the cost of living and wages, workforce retention, the transient nature of the workforce and also just a lack of job applications coming through the doors,” said WHA’s general manager Marla Zucht, who also noted that no businesses attributed their staffing shortages to a lack of available housing for employees in the resort.
The majority of Whistler’s workforce, 80 per cent, resided in the resort last winter, which exceeds the municipality’s target goal.
We do have a community goal entrenched in our Official Community Plan of housing a minimum of 75 per cent of our employees locally, so we have been exceeding that target,” Zucht said.
Ninety-six per cent of seasonal workers lived locally during the last winter season.
As an appointee to the municipality’s Economic Partnership Initiative (EPI) Committee, Coun. Jayson Faulkner underlined the need to keep Whistler’s workforce in the resort, noting “how important the money is that flows back into local businesses.
“Obviously it’s been a reinforcing characteristic of this (housing) program from Day 1 and it continues to pay benefits,” he added.
Zucht said 59 per cent of WHA’s resident restricted housing is owned, while 41 percent is rented, a shift in focus that’s only come about in the last few years.
“Initially with the evolution of the Housing Authority and the employee housing program, we focused originally on rentals,” she said. “But more recently, in the last five to six years, we’ve switched that focus to the affordable ownership side. Certainly with the Olympic Legacy village and Rainbow coming online now the majority is now affordable ownership.”
The full report is available for viewing at www.whistlerhousing.ca.