Vancouver moves to expropriate notorious slum hotels

Vancouver officials take the first step toward taking control of two infamous, slum-like hotels in the city's Downtown Eastside by filing a notice of expropriation for both.

Balmoral and Regent hotels both closed over structural, safety concerns; displacing hundreds

The City of Vancouver is taking steps to expropriate both the Balmoral and Regent hotels. (Harold Dupuis/CBC)

Vancouver officials have taken the first step toward taking control of two infamous, slum-like hotels in the city's Downtown Eastside by filing a notice of expropriation for both. 

The recently closed Balmoral and Regent hotels have been the subject of a bitter, years-long battle between the city and the family that owns them. Both buildings were eventually declared unsafe by the city. Prior to closing, the Regent had more than 1,000 open bylaw safety and maintenance violations

"Given this ongoing mismanagement and the critical shortage of housing for low-income residents in Vancouver, the city is now taking action to acquire direct ownership of the two properties for the purpose of providing housing in the Downtown Eastside," reads a city news release.

Both the Regent and the Balmoral are owned by the Vancouver-based Sahota family — siblings who have operated a number of shabby buildings on the Downtown Eastside and around Vancouver for more than three decades.

The city evacuated and forced the closure of the Balmoral in June 2017 over fears it would collapse due to structural decay caused by years of water damage and rot.

The Regent was deemed uninhabitable in June of this year because of other safety concerns. The building was the subject of over 1,000 bylaw violations, 445 of which were referred to prosecution.

More than 300 people who had been living in the hotels' single rooms had to be relocated. 

The city forced the closure of the Regent Hotel in June over serious safety concerns. (CBC)

Both buildings are owned by the Sahota family, calls for comment to which went unreturned. 

"Despite years of enforcement efforts by the city and hundreds of bylaw violation charges presently before the courts, the owners have not made the basic investments necessary to maintain safety and an acceptable standard of living for tenants in these two buildings," the release says. 

A garbage-filled room in the Balmoral Hotel. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

City staff say they approached the Sahotas within the past year with offers to purchase both hotels but received no response.

It's unclear how long the expropriation process could take.

Once the Sahotas have been served with the notice they will have 30 days to request an inquiry. Barring that, the matter will go before city council and, if approved, the buildings will be purchased based on an independent appraisal, with a year-long period to negotiate further payment.

More than 300 people who had been living in the hotels' single rooms had to be relocated. (Tina Lovgreen/CBC)

According to the release, purchasing the hotels aligns with local, provincial and federal strategies to improve low-income housing.

"Bringing the Balmoral and Regent hotels into public ownership will protect important low-income housing stock in the Downtown Eastside and may provide an opportunity to meet long-standing goals for the replacement of single room occupancy hotels with self-contained social housing," reads the release. 

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