British Columbia

Vancouver moves to seize 2 Downtown Eastside hotels it shut down for $1 apiece

City council will vote Wednesday on whether to approve the expropriation of the Balmoral and Regent buildings on East Hastings Street. If the motion passes staff will have the authority to pay the Sahota family, which owns the buildings, $1 for each of them, along with $1,000 for the lease on the Regent Pub.

Balmoral and Regent hotels on Hastings Street were shut down by the city for multiple violations

The exterior of the Balmoral Hotel, which was shut down by the City of Vancouver in June 2017. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

A buck each.

That's how much the City of Vancouver wants to pay to expropriate two Downtown Eastside buildings, both of which have sat empty for more than a year after they were shut down due to dozens of health and safety violations. 

City council will vote Wednesday on whether to approve the expropriation of the Balmoral and Regent buildings on East Hastings Street. If the motion passes, staff will have the authority to pay the Sahota family, which owns the buildings, $1 for each of them, along with $1,000 for the lease on the Regent Pub.

In addition, the city would spend $350,000 to secure the buildings with security systems and patrols while a long-term solution for the buildings is found. 

The city says the $1 figure came from an independent appraisal, and says it is due to the extensive renovations required to bring the buildings up to standard.

"We are unaware of any instances of property being transferred with a negative value," wrote CWPC Property Consultants in a report to the city.   

"Therefore, a value of $1 is concluded ... with the knowledge that a purchaser would be required to assume the financial obligations with either holding or demolishing and redeveloping the property."

Under the Expropriation Act, the owners will have one year to bring a claim for greater compensation.

In a tweet, Mayor Kennedy Stewart said he would voting in favour of expropriation. 

"They've been vacant and in disrepair for too long," he wrote. 

"We need to bring them back into public ownership and repaired so our most vulnerable neighbours can get off the street."

The Regent was the subject of more than 1,000 bylaw violations, 445 of which were referred to prosecution. (CBC)

Troubled history

The two hotels stand across the street from one another, and for decades housed around 280 low-income residents.

But the buildings became notorious for unsafe and unsanitary conditions, with fears the Balmoral would collapse due to structural decay caused by years of water damage and rot.

More than a thousand bylaw infractions were brought against both buildings, but the Sahota family was unresponsive to most requests from the city to make the necessary changes.

The city shut down the Balmoral in 2017 and the Regent in 2018, providing alternative accommodations for most residents. 

In 2018, the city began expropriation negotiations, and in April 2019 the Sahotas agreed to pay a $150,000 fine and donate a total of $25,000 to local charities after pleading guilty to a majority of bylaw charges.

A lawyer for the Sahota family declined comment on the matter. The City of Vancouver and Coun. Jean Swanson said they were unable to provide comment until Wednesday's vote. 

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now