Stewart made the announcement from his apartment via a remote news conference with Ahmed Hussen, the federal minister responsible for housing, who was in Toronto. Vancouver-Centre MP Hedy Fry emceed the conference from her home.
“This building will allow us to provide warm, safe homes for approximately 65 people who were previously experiencing homelessness across Vancouver and just as importantly connect them to service and programs to support their wellbeing,” Stewart said.
The price paid for the two-star hotel at 2075 Kingsway was not disclosed but funding came from $51.5 million the federal government promised Vancouver in October 2020 under a national fund called the Rapid Housing Initiative.
“Eventually, I think the approximate number [of the sale price] will be released and made available to the public,” Stewart told Glacier Media in an interview following the news conference.
“At this point, we can’t say because we still have a lot of other money to spend and we’re negotiating with other parties.”
The total investment for Vancouver allows the city to spend money on another 70 homes, which Stewart said will likely come in the form of existing buildings converted to housing.
“The deal [with the $51.5 million fund] is [housing] has to be built by the end of this year and occupied,” he said. “That means it would be impossible to build anything new other than modular housing. So really the focus was on securing housing that already exists.”
Historically, the city’s purchase or lease of a hotel has been done to alleviate overloaded shelters and single-room-occupancy hotels. Opening up a hotel has seen people in precarious housing moved into more secure housing, which frees up shelter and single-room-occupancy hotel space for people living on the street.
The $51.5 million is 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.
A staff report released last fall identified 290 units in undisclosed buildings that could cost $125 million to $240 million to buy, with another $11 million required for operating costs, including providing tenants access to health care and other services.
The 290 units would accommodate less than half of the 750 homeless people the city estimates live on the streets, with about 200 residing in Strathcona Park’s tent city. Council heard in the fall from staff that the purchase price for a commercial hotel could cost $400,000 to $500,000 per door.
In 2017, the federal government announced a $40-billion, 10-year housing strategy that aimed to reduce "chronic homelessness" by 50 per cent by 2027. Hussen said Monday the total investment of the plan is now at $70 million.
David Eby, the provincial government’s minister responsible for housing, told Glacier Media last month that people living in Strathcona Park will be moved into some form of shelter by the end of April.
"We also have significant housing initiatives underway with the federal government and with the City of Vancouver in the next 12 to 24 months to really get people inside in a really significant way," Eby said at the time.
The B.C. government announced Feb. 22 that two shelters offering a total of 120 beds will be in place by April for people living in the park. The shelters will be located at 875 Terminal Avenue and at 15-27 East Hastings St., the location of the shuttered Army & Navy store.