Revelstoke businesses supportive of seasonal employee housing

For Revelstoke businesses, a lack of rental housing has created problems when it comes to recruitment and retention of employees.

The affordable housing complex on Oscar Street opened earlier this year. More new housing is being considered.

For Revelstoke businesses, a lack of rental housing has created problems when it comes to recruitment and retention of employees.

So, it is perhaps not surprising that approximately 30 business owners, managers and other staff attended a meeting on employee housing hosted by Community Futures last Wednesday.

Community Futures general manager Kevin Dorrius called the meeting a fact-finding mission, noting that nothing has been decided in terms of the type or location of housing that may be built.

Dorrius said he was surprised at how many business owners came out for the meeting.

“It certainly reinforces that this is a real issue here, and we need to take some steps to deal with this,” he said. “It’s (housing) going to get into a bigger crunch as time goes on. We have had businesses come and talk to us about how they have either bought or are looking at buying real estate because they’re having such an issue.”

Dorrius also noted it is becoming more difficult to afford to live in Revelstoke, and that some sectors of the local economy struggle to pay a wage which allows employees to pay rent.

“So that’s what we’re looking at, trying to find some affordability,” he said.

The intention of building the units is that businesses would use them to house staff. There would be rules in place about buying and selling units. Businesses would purchase units, and would be able to use them for seasonal staff.

While nothing has been decided yet, Dorrius said he envisioned dormitory style housing for employees.

Community economic development director Alan Mason, who was also present at the meeting, noted dormitory style housing is seen in other resort communities.

“It’s quite common for resort communities to build dormitory type housing for seasonal staff that come and go,” he said.

Peter Nielsen, vice president of operations with Revelstoke Mountain Resort, agreed that dormitory style housing seems to be a good option for the community as a whole.

“By addressing that entry level segment, you are going to free up other styles of accommodation,” he said.

Perhaps one of the biggest concerns expressed by those present at the meeting was how to deal with tenancy issues.

Dorrius said they would likely be looking at a co-op or strata-type ownership, and that because it would be such a large housing unit, a building manager would likely be necessary.

Norm Langois, general manager of The Coast Hillcrest Hotel, said he felt a strata-type building would help to prevent issues with tenants. He also suggested rules about tenancy in the employee housing could become a condition of employment.

“It becomes a staff housing that you’re renting to them, so it becomes a condition of employment,” said Langois.

With an obvious interest from local businesses, next steps will include more planning and gathering information about the number of employees local businesses may need to house.