British Columbia·Feature

A look inside the Balmoral Hotel where city says tenants are in 'imminent danger'

The City of Vancouver says a hotel that is rented monthly by low-income residents is so unsafe that it's evacuating the building because it's at risk of collapsing.

City of Vancouver say 176-room SRO is at risk at collapsing and its tenants have been given evacuation notices

The 150 residents of the Balmoral Hotel, which has long been plagued with problems, had eviction notices plastered on their doors on Friday.

Some notices were jammed into holes that door knobs once occupied.

"I'm scared shitless man. I'll fight back. I'm not afraid. I'll fight back," said one resident after learning of the order to vacate.

The City of Vancouver said an in-depth engineering inspection revealed that the 176-room SRO in the Downtown Eastside is unsafe for occupancy and its tenants are in imminent danger, as the building's interior is severely compromised due to water damage and rot.

The city disconnected the water supply in the building's bathtubs a week ago, fearing the water weight in the tubs would cause the floor to collapse. 

"What we are dealing with is many decades of under investment in a building by private owners," said Paul Mochrie, the city's deputy manager.

Despite the building cleaner's efforts to mop up the creaking floors — he said he gets paid $45 a day to clean the entire eight floors of the hotel — garbage, needles, bed bugs, rats and human faeces is in almost every corner. 

There are currently 150 outstanding violations and the stench at the Balmoral hotel can only be described one way. 

"The smell, it's not the smell of death, but it is as close to the smell of death as you can get with garbage," said Faye LaMontage, who lives on the eighth floor. 

Some units are boarded up, and behind them, piles of junk like garbage, mattresses, clothes and broken appliances. 

Residents say there is mould everywhere. They say the owners haven't addressed it or have just simply covered it up with plastic.

Loose cables hang from ceilings, fire hoses are jumbled up and spilling out of their cases and needles and trash can be spotted everywhere. 

Given all this, residents say they prefer to stay here rather than go to a shelter.

"Oh my God. Into a shelter, you nuts? You think it is unsafe here? In a shelter it's a lot worse," said DJ, who has lived at Balmoral for decades.

"I feel safer in my own home," she said, "being in a shelter is the worst thing, especially if you're a single woman."

The City of Vancouver said outreach staff have met several times with residents to discuss relocation plans and needs of each tenant and will work on finding them alternate housing.

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