City buys two notorious single-resident occupancy hotels in Downtown Eastside

Former residents of the Balmoral Hotel protest outside City Hall in 2017
Former residents of the Balmoral Hotel protest outside city hall in 2017 ahead of the city's condemnation of the building, but it took years in court to expropriate the low-income housing buildings from their owners, the Sahota family. Photo by David P. Ball.
Laurence Gatinel - CFRO - VancouverBC | 07-12-2020
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By David P. Ball

The City of Vancouver has officially become the owner of two of the Downtown Eastside's (DTES) most infamous single-resident occupancy hotels.

According to government property records, the city took possession of the title to the Regent and Balmoral hotels, near the corner of East Hastings and Main streets.

The acquisition was first reported by Jen St. Denis, Downtown Eastside journalist with The Tyee, in a recent exclusive article.

She told The Pulse on CFRO in an interview that it is believed this is the first time Vancouver has taken over buildings, but questions are swirling over whether the city paid taxpayer money to acquire the notorious landlords. St. Denis talks about the historic significance of the purchases, possibly just the first of many such acquisitions of low-income housing.

St. Denis' article on Friday details the history of the buildings, which the city shut as derelict and unsafe for housing before fighting their owners — the Sahota family — in court to expropriate them.

But while the city has taken such a major historic step to address the shuttered historic buildings right at the core of the DTES, amidst a pledge to push for $1 billion funding from the federal government to buy up potentially over 100 such SRO buildings in Vancouver, it has been much slower to respond to the ongoing homeless Tent City in Strathcona Park.

On Sunday, St. Denis broke the news that a man had been found dead of unknown causes inside the camp, outside his tent, apparently having been left for some time. It's just the latest incident after a stabbing that left a man abandoned for hours near the tent city this summer, who would later have his leg amputated.

Tent city advocates demanded housing, sanitation and shower facilities installed, and long-term housing options provided to residents who feel unsafe at homeless shelters.