Big White building staff housing complex

With staff housing challenges growing up at Big White, the resort is reaching into its own pocket to add to the supply.

Earlier this year, construction started on a 3.5 million dollar staff residence, which will have 5 four-bedroom units, along with four studio apartments.

Senior Vice President Michael J. Ballingall says accommodating staff keeps getting harder.

"Certainly in the last couple of years, it's become a much bigger problem, because Airbnb has become so popular. Vacation by owner has become so popular," he said.

"Instead of renting your private accommodation to a staff member to earn income, you're now looking at putting it on the market."

He says construction started back in mid-May, and that the building will be occupied by December 1, this year.

Ballingall says there's some irony in the fact that while this project puts less money in the tourism budget, the flip side of Airbnb is that it boosts accommodation for visitors.

"That's an investment that normally would go into the tourism sector. We might use it to build more lifts, to do more summer grooming, to put in more tourism facilities," he said.

"Right now, we have to concentrate on building staff beds, so we can accomodate and service the 600,000 people that visit Big White annually."

The site on Black Forest Road has room to add another building for each of the next three years.

The project was finalized in April, and is being led by a Kelowna-based company, Chaparral Industries.

Ballingall says it's a big investment from Big White, but is also designed in a way that if staff demand decreases in future years..

"We can convert this into a seasonal tourism-style accommodation, that would be great for a family of four or a family of six. It's easily two-bedroom, two bathroom, they're easily separated off. And of course, if the future warrants that, then that's what we will do."

He says in the next few years, Big White will also look to add higher density dorm-style residences for its staff.