THE BC Liberals on Monday said they wanted help for small businesses impacted by Premier John Horgan and the NDP’s decisions to overpay for buildings to house the homeless and coerce various building tenants who were never consulted with in the first place.
“It’s important that we provide supportive or transitional housing with full wraparound supports for society’s most vulnerable but what we’ve seen happen with the purchases of hotels by B.C. Housing here in Victoria is nothing more than a failure at every level,” said MLA Todd Stone, BC Liberal Municipal Affairs and Housing Critic. “In the middle of a pandemic, when people are already struggling, John Horgan has put small businesses at risk of bankruptcy while killing local jobs.”
In one such case, B.C. Housing purchased Paul’s Motor Inn, a 75-room motel in Victoria, to temporarily house people without homes during the pandemic. Local Victoria restaurant Paul’s Diner by Fol Epi was leasing space in the hotel and spent $150,000 on renovations to the restaurant only last year. With the business no longer viable, owner Clif Leir has been told he will not be reimbursed for his costs. This major financial hit will likely endanger the financial viability of Fol Epi’s other Victoria locations, which puts more than 50 jobs at risk of being lost, according to the BC Liberals.
“This entire debacle has been handled poorly at every possible point. It’s unfair that these small businesses and their employees are being made to financially suffer as a result of this government’s decisions,” said MLA Joan Isaacs. “It now up to John Horgan and the NDP to admit they botched this and compensate these businesses for their losses.”
In another case, B.C. Housing purchased the Comfort Inn Hotel also in Victoria and — without consulting with tenants — issued eviction notices to the small businesses within, like All About Hue Hair Design. Most of the salon’s clients cancelled their appointments after learning about the hotel purchase in the media. Days after BC Housing began moving people into the hotel there was a fire in one of the rooms, which caused water damage to the salon triggered further cancellations. As of today, All About Hue has suffered lost wages and water damage from activities by the hotel’s new residents while B.C. Housing refuses to provide compensation, according to the B.C. Liberals.
Businessman Leir said: “We are a community member that actively participates in a local food system that employs people with meaningful work, supports local farms and donates food to the homeless and those marginalized or in need. By financially impacting us in this way at a time when our industry is already being hit so hard, the government is potentially ruining a business that is an important part of the solution to many key areas that need support right now — including the one they claim to be trying to solve by purchasing this building. Our opportunity to operate a viable business was taken away from us the minute the government became our landlords and it’s not fair that my staff and I should be made to suffer as a result of this decision. So far the only solution that’s been offered to us is to walk away from our lease. This would mean writing off $150,000 in renovations, killing 20 good local jobs, and giving up on our dream that we all work so hard to achieve. If the government doesn’t fix this and address our losses, we run the real risk of having to close our other locations, which will put another 35 local jobs and the families that depend on them at risk — it will ruin us. BC Housing’s complete lack of flexibility and accountability through this process is irresponsible and unacceptable.”
Lindsay Price, owner of All About Hue Hair Design, said: “Days after the Comfort Inn property was purchased by the government, BC Housing sent construction workers to board up our salon ‘for the safety of our stuff,’ without ever contacting us. From the beginning, we got the impression that BC Housing didn’t even know there were other businesses located on the hotel property. There was a fire in one of the units shortly after they began moving people into the hotel and nobody contacted us about it, despite our salon suffering water damage from the fire sprinklers. We found out from the fire department, who contacted us before BC Housing, only because one of the firefighter’s wife was a client at the salon. Most clients cancelled their appointments after learning about the hotel purchase in the media. The fire forced most of our remaining clients to cancel their appointments. A table was even set up at the entrance to the salon with condoms and needles and BC Housing has failed to offer our business or my staff any compensation. This has been the most unprofessional experience I’ve ever encountered in all my years in business.”