VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – In an unprecedented move, Vancouver city council has voted unanimously to expropriate two rundown hotels in the Downtown Eastside Wednesday afternoon.
The city will need to pay the owners of the Regent and Balmoral hotels, the Sahotas, $1 each before filing a notice with B.C.’s land title office to take possession, all within 30 days.
Deputy City Manager Paul Mochrie says it’s the first time the city has expropriated a property for housing, but can’t rule out a legal challenge.
“This was a very extraordinary response to a unique set of circumstances,” he says. “These are very important buildings, they’re large buildings in the Downtown Eastside that provide critical housing stock to low-income residents. They were closed due to safety concerns with the buildings. There’s no indication that those buildings would be remediated or returned to use.”
Deputy City Manager Paul Mochrie says this process was years in the making and stems from numerous safety violations forcing the closure of both the #Balmoral and #Regent hotels. @NEWS1130 pic.twitter.com/VCAocD82lN
— Marcella Bernardo (@Bernardo1130) November 6, 2019
The city estimates it will cost $46 million to fix the Balmoral Hotel, and $40 million to fix the Regent Hotel, before both can be used by B.C. Housing for people with low incomes.
“We’re continuing to work with senior levels of government on funding program for these buildings. Our hope is that we can, as soon as possible, start the work to bring them back to occupancy,” he says.
Mayor Kennedy Stewart says it’s been years of frustration.
“Today’s historic vote to expropriate the Balmoral and Regent Hotels is a clear message that we are not afraid to use every tool at our disposal to create new affordable homes,” he said in a press release. “The decision to bring the buildings into public ownership was not taken lightly. Safe, secure homes are desperately needed in our city and today’s decision recognizes the impact these buildings had on the Downtown Eastside community.”
Vancouver has been battling the buildings’ owners for years hoping to make them livable again. Both have been empty for more than a year.
A notice of expropriation for the buildings was filed around 15 months ago after it wasn’t able to negotiate the purchase.
So moved to witness Council vote unanimously to expropriate the Regent and Balmoral hotels.
— Christine Boyle (@christineeboyle) November 6, 2019
Jean Swanson pleased with decision
Coun. Jean Swanson, who spent years fighting for better living conditions in the city’s worst neighbourhood, was been moved to tears.
“It’s been years. People whose lives have been threatened, we desperately need the housing, and the housing needs to be in the public sector so that people are secure, so they get what they need, so it’s well-managed. (I’m) really pleased,” she says. “I’m really happy.”
As for the timeline, she says she thinks the current owners will try to drag out the legal process, but she’s hopeful it will happen sooner than later.
– With files from Jonathan Szekeres