Ryan Orr is about to enter his fifth summer as general manager at Jamie’s Rainforest Inn, and his laundry list of jobs to do in preparation for peak season includes nearly doubling his staff roster.
While recruiting dependable new hires can be trying, Orr says it’s finding appropriate accommodation that has always been the most pressing issue for managers on the West Coast.
“Sadly, they live in cars, they live in tents, they live in the field over at Crab Apple. They live on people’s couches. A lot of times, I don’t know exactly where they live,” he told the Westerly News at a recent lunch presentation from the Whistler Housing Authority on affordable housing.
“I think a lot of employers in town would tell you the same,” he said.
“They don’t necessarily want to know where their staff live as long as they come to work.”
Orr said that Jamie’s Rainforest Inn generally only hires people they can comfortably place in their staff accommodation or who have already found a stable place to live.
But, on the assumption that his 35 year-round staff can find their own accommodation—some of them can’t—that would still leave him with 10 seasonal employees without housing as the Inn only keeps beds for 10 staff.
“Nothing is actually happening yet and it’s just getting worse and worse. We’re certainly not on track to solve the problem this summer and probably not for the next two or three,” said Orr.
The district of Tofino has earmarked lot DC 114 behind the community hall as a preferred location for potential long-term, affordable housing development.
Over the next two months, a full-time consultant will work within the community to identify stakeholders and funding opportunities for a viable seasonal and affordable housing plan.
Orr made the recommendation that there needs to be an organization established, much like the Whistler Housing Authority, whose sole purpose is to focus on housing.
“I don’t know if we’ll be able to get the same funding model that Whistler has where it’s all funded by developers. But, I think if it’s just left to council and district staff alone, they have so many other things to deal with, I don’t think it will happen. There needs to be somebody committed,” he said.
As Tofino wades into what could very well be the busiest summer to date, Orr suggests those seeking seasonal housing go about it the old fashioned way.
“The only thing I ever tell anybody is it comes down to who you know and word-of-mouth,” he said, “Few people will actually find something through postings. If you are looking, tell as many people as you possibly can that you’re looking and hopefully, when someone hears of something, they’ll remember you.”