Vancouver considers seizing derelict hotels for $1 apiece in Downtown Eastside

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The City of Vancouver may expropriate the Balmoral, left, and the Regent, right, for $1 apiece. File photo by Dan Toulgoet/Vancouver Courier

Vancouver city council is scheduled to vote today on the expropriation of two dilapidated hotels in the Downtown Eastside after failing to buy them.

The city says it wasn’t able to negotiate the purchase of the Balmoral and Regent hotels with the owners and a staff report is recommending that council approve the expropriation of each building for $1 apiece.

The report also recommends the city spend $350,000 on each building to make them secure, which would include installing security systems and conducting regular patrols.

When the city first filed a notice of expropriation for the buildings about 15 months ago, an official said it was the first time the municipality had pursued expropriation to provide public housing.

The report says if council approves the recommendation, city staff intend to work with BC Housing to renovate the buildings to create social housing units.

The owners of the buildings asked for an inquiry of the decision, but the city says that request was withdrawn in April.

The Balmoral and Regent hotels are known as single-room occupancy buildings, or SROs. They sit opposite each other on East Hastings Street.

It’s a model of housing that sprang up in Vancouver as transient accommodation for loggers and fishermen, but has since become a source of low-income housing.

More than 300 of the city’s lowest income tenants were relocated when the hotels were separately ordered shut down in 2017 and 2018 by the chief building officer after they were deemed to be unsafe.

Last year, the city said it also wants to replace 50 per cent of the remaining SROs by 2028, totalling about 2,000 rooms, with new social housing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 6, 2019.