City should prove it learned from the Balmoral disaster

The Carnegie Community Action Project (CCAP) is calling on the City to prove that it has learned from the Balmoral Hotel fiasco. “If the City is really concerned about the Balmoral situation and doesn’t want another repeat of it, they should immediately issue orders under section 23.8 of the Standards of Maintenance bylaw for the Sahota family to repair the Regent and Cobalt hotels,” said Lenee Son, CCAP Coordinator. “If they don’t repair, the city should do the work and bill the owners as the law allows.”

“In addition, the City must guarantee that the remaining 28 tenants who have no place to go get decent and suitable permanent housing at welfare shelter rates,” added Son.

“Just because the City found housing for most of the Balmoral residents doesn’t mean the evictions are ok,” explained Maria Wallstam of CCAP. “The City now has to do the necessary repairs at the Balmoral and ensure that the renovated units rent for the welfare shelter rate. If the City allows the Sahotas to charge higher rents in a renovated building, they will have rewarded the slumlords for their negligence.”

“We need to hold the City, Province and Federal governments to account for allowing the Sahotas to build wealth on the backs of impoverished tenants,” said Bill Weir, a CCAP volunteer.

The City has allowed several rental properties to deteriorate to the extent that tenants have to be evicted. These include the Burns Block on Hastings, an apartment on Pandora St. and the Clifton Hotel on Granville. The time is now for the city to learn from its negligence and stop rewarding slumlords by closing their buildings for them.

While the City did acquire 60 more rooms for homeless people because of the Balmoral evictions, 173 rooms have been lost for a net loss of 113 rooms at a time when we have 2138 counted homeless people in Vancouver.

“The city needs to stop talking about ‘a range of housing options’ and a ‘continuum of housing’ and start prioritizing homeless people and SRO residents for all new social housing,” said Son.

The province and federal government need to step up now with rent control based on the unit, not the tenant, and build at least 10,000 units of social housing in BC a year until homelessness is ended.

Senior government also need to help the city acquire and improve SRO hotels until decent social housing is available.

“Homeless people have half the life expectancy as other British Columbians and it’s cheaper to house them than leave them on the street,” said Jean Swanson, a CCAP organizer. “Now is the time for all levels of government to decide that low-income and homeless lives are worth as much as richer and housed lives.”