British Columbia

Vancouver orders SRO-owners to repair building unsafe for people

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.

The 176-room Balmoral Hotel is at risk at collapsing, city says

The front of the Balmoral Hotel, including broken windows of residents' rooms, on June 2, 2017, the day the City of Vancouver ordered the building evacuated. (Harold Dupuis/CBC)

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.

A news release from the city says its chief building official has deemed the 176-room Balmoral Hotel in the Downtown Eastside unfit for occupation because of structural and fire concerns and tenants must be relocated by June 12.

It says the building owners have maintained unacceptable conditions for decades, causing significant problems for police and the city.

The city has now ordered the owners to immediately begin repairs, once the tenants are out or be charged for costs if they don't comply.

Inside the Balmoral Hotel

5 years ago
Duration 1:13
A long time resident showed what living conditions are like inside the Balmoral Hotel. 1:13

While it's the owners' legal obligation to support tenants who must be relocated, the city says municipal and provincial governments, along with Vancouver Coastal Health, advocates and community groups will help people find alternative housing.

The city says an engineering firm retained by the owners last month suggested water damage and rot have compromised the building, though it's hoping the Balmoral can be fixed to provide a critical source of affordable housing.

The leaflet, explaining the notice to evacuate, that was being handed out to residents of the Balmoral Hotel. (Harold Dupuis/CBC)

Tenants 'hung out to dry'

Carnegie Community Action Project spokesperson Wendy Pedersen believes the city is taking the wrong approach — and that it comes after months of neglect. 

"Shelters are a slippery slope until life-threatening crises in people's lives. They're already under served, under protected, extremely vulnerable people. I don't think they'll want to go to a shelter," she said.

A bathroom toilet inside the Balmoral Hotel. (Johann Nertomb/CBC)

"They haven't backed up the community. They haven't backed up the tenants. And now they're hung out to dry."

However, deputy city manager Paul Mochrie said it was impossible for them to make the improvements necessary to the building without temporarily evicting the tenants.

"These are people that have had to endure some truly atrocious living conditions and are now subject to displacement from their homes on extremely short notice," he said.

"We're extremely frustrated this is the situation we find ourselves in and they find themselves in. Unfortunately, given the safety information we've received, we simply have no choice. The risk to those tenants is too great." 

With files from Tina Lovgreen  

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