It will become more expensive for developers to convert single-room-occupancy hotel buildings (SROs) into high-price condos if Vancouver city council approves bylaw changes Tuesday that boost the conversion fee.

City staff are recommending that the SRO conversion fee be raised from $5,000 to $15,000 per room, as part of an effort to deter developers, whoare being attracted by rapidly rising prices for real estate in the Downtown Eastside.

Two SROs in the area, the poorest neighbourhood inCanada,are currently listed for sale at $2.3 million each—more than double their assessed values.

Advocates for the homeless have complained that 17 SROshave been sold in the area in the past year.

Need to take action, councillors agree

Vision Vancouver Coun. Tim Stevenson says everything should be done to protect the rundown buildings, and wants the city to impose a moratorium on SRO conversions.

"We've got a real danger of many more people ending up on the streets as all of these hotels are being boughtup and changed very rapidly, as the price of land goes up.

"And we want to be sure that there is no demolition of any SROs for the immediate future, at least until we get beyond the Olympics."

But the staff report opposesa moratorium, instead recommending the tripling of the conversion fee.

Non-Partisan Association Coun. Peter Ladner supports that increase. But he said he also believes developers should be allowed to do what they want with their buildings if rooms are replaced somewhere else.

"I don't think it's right to force private hotel owners to provide social housing out of their own pockets."

Both Ladner and Stevenson agree that the federal and provincial governments have to come up with more money to help the city deal with the low-cost housing crisis.

There are currently about 5,000 SRO rooms in the Downtown Eastside. Most were built a century ago and some rooms are only 50 square feet.