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The city ordered the Balmoral to close in 2017 and the Regent, pictured, to shutter in 2018, triggering a scramble by the city, province and non-profit agencies to find new homes for about 300 people.

Jackie Dives / The Globe and Mai/The Globe and Mail

B.C. Housing Minister Selina Robinson says the province will work with Vancouver city council on whatever plans emerge for the Regent and Balmoral hotels, two rundown single-room occupancy properties the city has voted to expropriate for $1 each.

“We have worked with the City of Vancouver to deliver more than 720 new supportive homes in the last two years, and those homes are changing hundreds of lives right now,” Ms. Robinson said in an e-mail.

“I encourage the city to continue to work with [provincial housing agency] BC Housing so that together we can keep delivering the homes people need," she added.

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Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart has said the city would seek help from other levels of government to help renovate or rebuild the two buildings, which for decades housed hundreds of low-income tenants in deteriorating conditions.

The city ordered the Balmoral to close in 2017 and the Regent to shutter in 2018, triggering a scramble by the city, province and non-profit agencies to find new homes for about 300 people.

The owners of both buildings, Vancouver’s Sahota family, have balked at the city’s plan to pay $1 for each of the buildings and are expected to challenge the expropriation in court.

RECENT SRO TRANSACTIONS, 2012-2019

Detail

VANCOUVER

0

550

m

Balmoral Hotel

2

5

1

DOWNTOWN

VANCOUVER

6

7

4

3

Regent Hotel

MAIN ST

Dollar values in millions

ASSESSED

VALUE (2019)

SALE

PRICE

SALE

DATE

ADDRESS

 

 

204 CARRALL ST

796 MAIN ST

228 E PENDER ST

55 POWELL ST

33 W HASTINGS ST

5 W HASTINGS ST

1

 

2

3

4

5

6

7

233/235 AND

237/239 MAIN ST

$12.5M

June, 2018

 

$4.1M

$3.0M

$2.5M

$2.2M

$1.5M

$1.3M

 

May 15, 2014

March 31, 2015

May 30, 2014

May 6, 2014

Jan. 25, 2012

April 30, 2012

 

$7.5M

$4.7M

$4.4M

$3.4M

$4.3M

$4.3M

MAP: MURAT YÜKSELIR, RESEARCH: STEPHANIE

CHAMBERS / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, LANDCOR,

SOURCE: TILEZEN; OSM CONTRIBUTORS; HIU

RECENT SRO TRANSACTIONS, 2012-2019

Detail

VANCOUVER

0

550

m

Balmoral Hotel

2

5

1

E HASTINGS ST

DOWNTOWN

VANCOUVER

6

7

4

3

PRIOR ST

Regent Hotel

MAIN ST

TERMINAL AVE

Dollar values in millions

SALE

PRICE

SALE

DATE

ASSESSED

VALUE (2019)

ADDRESS

233/235 AND

237/239 MAIN ST

$12.5M

June, 2018

1

204 CARRALL ST

796 MAIN ST

228 E PENDER ST

55 POWELL ST

33 W HASTINGS STT

5 W HASTINGS ST

$4.1M

$3.0M

$2.5M

$2.2M

$1.5M

$1.3M

May 15, 2014

March 31, 2015

May 30, 2014

May 6, 2014

Jan. 25, 2012

April 30, 2012

$7.5M

$4.7M

$4.4M

$3.4M

$4.3M

$4.3M

2

3

4

5

6

7

MAP: MURAT YÜKSELIR, RESEARCH: STEPHANIE CHAMBERS, LANDCOR

/ THE GLOBE AND MAIL, SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP

CONTRIBUTORS; HIU

RECENT SRO TRANSACTIONS, 2012-2019

Detail

Balmoral Hotel

VANCOUVER

2

5

GRANVILLE ST

1

E HASTINGS ST

ROBSON ST

6

7

4

3

PRIOR ST

DOWNTOWN

VANCOUVER

Regent Hotel

MAIN ST

TERMINAL AVE

0

550

m

Dollar values in millions

ADDRESS

SALE PRICE

SALE DATE

ASSESSED VALUE (2019)

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

$12.5M

$4.1M

$3.0M

$2.5M

$2.2M

$1.5M

$1.3M

$7.5M

$4.7M

$4.4M

$3.4M

$4.3M

$4.3M

233/235 AND 237/239 MAIN ST

204 CARRALL ST

796 MAIN ST

228 E PENDER ST

55 POWELL ST

33 W HASTINGS ST

5 W HASTINGS ST

June, 2018

May 15, 2014

March 31, 2015

May 30, 2014

May 6, 2014

Jan. 25, 2012

April 30, 2012

MAP: MURAT YÜKSELIR, RESEARCH: STEPHANIE CHAMBERS / THE GLOBE AND MAIL, LANDCOR,

SOURCE: TILEZEN; OPENSTREETMAP CONTRIBUTORS; HIU

If the city prevails in court, there’s the question of whether the single-room occupancy hotels should be renovated or demolished.

An appraisal prepared for the city concluded it would cost more to renovate or demolish the buildings, which are located across the street from each other in the city’s Downtown Eastside, than the city could recoup by selling the renovated properties or by knocking them down and selling the land.

The buildings are each around 100 years old, in poor repair and contain hazardous material, said Andrew Newman, the city’s associate director of real estate services, at the Nov. 6 council meeting at which the council voted in favour of expropriation.

Because both buildings were ordered closed because of risks to residents, the city would be looking at a total rebuild rather than a renovation, Mr. Newman added.

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The estimated “all-in” renovation costs would be about $46-million for the Balmoral and about $40-million for the Regent, Mr. Newman said.

Each of the buildings had about 170 units before they were closed.

At the same council meeting, Evan Cooke, a lawyer representing the building’s owners, challenged the city’s $1 valuations, saying it was based on flawed reports and ignored offers from would-be purchasers that valued each of the buildings in the $10-million range.

“I can’t imagine what is better evidence of market value than a series of arms’ length offers,” Mr. Cooke said.

Both the federal and provincial governments have stepped in before to help preserve single-room occupancy buildings as low-cost housing.

The SRO Renewal Initiative was a $147-million program (including about $30-million in federal funds and the rest from the province) to renovate 13 buildings in B.C. between 2007 and 2017. Program reports say contractors dealt with hazardous materials including asbestos, lead paint and underground storage tanks.

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One former resident of the Regent said the city should tear it down.

“These buildings are rundown, the wood is rotten, the bathrooms are in bad shape," Jack Gates, a former resident of the Regent, said at the Nov. 6 council meeting.

“I never knew when I was taking a shower if the tub was going to fall through the ceiling on the next floor.”

Sam Dharmapala, a former Sahota employee who joined tenant advocacy groups to expose conditions in both buildings, also urged council to consider demolition.

“I’m telling this council, and I’m telling city staff … these two buildings are not fixable.” Mr. Dharmapala said.

Property records show several SRO buildings have changed hands in recent years, including the Jubilee Rooms in the 200-block of Main Street.

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The province bought the Jubilee Rooms for $12.5-million in June, 2018, to provide housing for tenants forced to move when the city ordered the Regent to close.

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