Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce executive director Lara Kemps, left, joins Andrew Hanson, Mayor Mayco Noël, and Tod Henry in the communal kitchen of the newly renovated staff housing hotel located in downtown Ucluelet. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce champions unique staff housing solution

“It was a win-win situation for all of us.”

Relic surf instructor Mike Dandurand has moved at least six times since relocating to Ucluelet about three years ago.

He said he started off in a van then moved into a rental suite before moving into a staff accommodation and back to his car.

Now, the 26-year-old hangs his Relic Surf Shop hat in a newly renovated hotel located on Ucluelet’s Main Street. Featuring 10 freshly painted rooms, five with private bathrooms and five with shared facilities, the old hotel was transformed to serve the town as staff accommodation for various businesses.

“I’m so happy to have my own space,” said Dandurand. “It’s pretty sweet. The fact that there is a communal kitchen makes a huge difference. Everyone works different jobs so people are coming and going at different hours. You have fish plant people working the night shifts, you have restaurant people. There’s a mix. The kitchen is definitely hostel vibes.”

The innovative staff housing solution is co-ordinated by the Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber vets applications and subleases private rooms to business owners. The $500 to $600 monthly rent comes off the employees’ wages.

“I was trying to look for another Chamber of Commerce that did champion this. We are the first. People are calling me and asking me about this now,” said Ucluelet Chamber of Commerce executive director Lara Kemps.

Since the staff housing project was launched this summer, over 31 people have been housed, notes Kemps.

Property owner Andrew Hanson has been working on reviving the old hotel for about five years with reno man Tod Henry. He thinks converting his hotel into staff housing is a great achievement for his business.

“It was a win-win situation for all of us,” Hanson said. “[Housing] is a real need in town and it would be really great if we could find more people that were less interested in cashing in on the short-term accommodation and providing long-term to keep the town stable.”

Mayor Mayco Noël said he connected the property owner and the Chamber.

“It was a conversation that Tod and I had. I just saw that there was a huge opportunity. They had 10 rooms done and they just needed some beds. We were nearing end of May and I just knew that these guys were motivated,” said Noël, adding that Hanson had the option to keep his property as a hotel.

“He could have easily had the debit machine down here,” said Noël.

Tofino Long Beach Chamber of Commerce (TLBCC) executive director Jen Dart sits on a committee of the housing corporation that is looking into how specifically the Tofino Housing Corporation might deliver staff specific housing.

“The Chamber in Tofino has not been directly involved with housing, but has been very active in advocating for affordable housing and for the reformation of the Tofino Housing Corporation,” said Dart in an email.

Dandurand said as long as he’s at Relic, he can live in the town staff accommodation on Main Street.

“Thanks to Lara for putting all this together. It’s the most needed thing for this community,” said the surf instructor.


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