The City of Vancouver has purchased another hotel that's set to be re-purposed into supportive housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness, the municipality announced Friday.
Work is now underway to convert the former Best Western located at 205 Kingsway in Mount Pleasant into approximately 68 homes. The three-star property was paid for with funds from the federal government’s Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) program.
"Today’s announcement is another shining example of what happens when the Federal Government teams up directly with cities like Vancouver to help people who need it most," Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart said in a release.
“But housing alone is never enough, and that’s why I am also grateful for the ongoing support of the Province of British Columbia in funding the critical supports and services that help put our neighbours on a pathway of health and hope. Breaking the cycle of homelessness can be done; it just takes partnerships like these.”
It marks the second hotel that the city has purchased this year as part of its rapid response to Vancouver's homelessness crisis, using a total $51.5 million in funds provided by the Government of Canada. The municipality's purchase of 2075 Kingsway in February will result in an additional 65 units of supportive housing by year's end.
The City of Vancouver has not yet disclosed the purchase price of either Kingsway hotel. Last month, Stewart told Glacier Media that, "The deal [with the $51.5 million fund] is [housing] has to be built by the end of this year and occupied."
The $51.5 million comes in addition to $30 million city council unlocked last fall to assist in buying and leasing hotels and other buildings to serve as temporary — and possibly permanent — housing for people without homes, or at risk of homelessness.
Previously, the city also procured the former Biltmore Hotel at 395 Kingsway, which currently offers 95 supportive housing units, and the former Ramada Hotel at 3475 E Hastings St., which now provides 57 temporary housing units under the moniker Skeena House.
Ahmed Hussen, Canada's minister of families, children, and social development, said the federal government's investments with the City of Vancouver as part of the RHI's Major Cities Stream "will go a long way to effectively support those who need it most by quickly providing new affordable homes to vulnerable individuals and families to keep them safe."
He added, "The purchase of this property will rapidly create housing for those that need it most across the city. This is the National Housing Strategy at work!”
Vancouver's newest supportive housing units expected to welcome tenants this fall
Both Kingsway properties will undergo renovations throughout the spring and summer seasons, after the City of Vancouver took ownership of the former Best Western this month. The city anticipates to see residents moving in by late fall 2021.
The supportive homes aim to provide people with shelter and necessities like food, washrooms and laundry. They also work to help connect tenants with connections to professional health and wellness supports. The buildings won't function as shelters, but as homes for which all residents will be expected to pay rent.
When renovations are complete, both properties will be managed by non-profit operators, according to the city. Annual funding required to operate these housing initiatives will be provided by the provincial government for the next 20 years.
The City of Vancouver and BC Housing have also recently committed to building 350 permanent supportive units in the coming years, to bolster the city's existing stockpile of nearly 1,000 supportive homes that have opened over the last three years.
Earlier this month, the provincial government also announced its purchase of three additional properties in Vancouver, intended to help shelter the many unhoused people who currently call Strathcona Park home.
The Government of B.C. has allocated $75.5 million to purchase the three hotels, located at 403 E. Hastings St. (195 units), 956 Main St. (22 units) and 1012 Main St. (32 units). The newly-procured hotels join three other properties in Vancouver that were recently acquired by the province to provide supporting living quarters for the unhoused.
The Ramada Hotel at 435 W. Pender St. will provide 80 permanent supportive homes for people experiencing homelessness, while properties at 1025 Granville St. and 103 E. Hastings St. were being leased by the province to provide 108 spaces for people who have needed a safe place to self-isolate during the pandemic.
Together, the six buildings provide a total of 340 permanent supportive homes and indoor spaces for Vancouverites who need them.
“We know there’s an urgent need to deliver homes with supports for people experiencing homelessness in Vancouver,” said David Eby, B.C.'s attorney general and minister responsible for housing, in Friday's release.
“Homelessness is a crisis, and housing is the solution. It is a pleasure to work with multiple levels of government in finding solutions to get people inside and supported with the urgency this crisis deserves.”
- With files from Mike Howell and Lindsay William-Ross