ON July 25, the City of Vancouver filed an expropriation notice for the Balmoral and Regent Hotels, owned by a South Asian family.
The City said that Balmoral was closed in June 2017, and the Regent was closed in June 2018, both due to decades of underinvestment and mismanagement by the building owners resulting in structural and life-safety concerns. Through these closures, more than 300 of the City’s lowest income tenants needed to be relocated to safer housing.
Filing the expropriation notice is the first step in the expropriation process that is intended to result in the transfer of these two properties to public ownership. 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. 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.
Prior to filing the expropriation notice, the City made an offer to the building owners to purchase both hotels, for a value based on independent appraisals. The offer was not accepted by the building owners.
The following outlines the next steps needed towards expropriation:
- The building owners and chargeholders will be served with the notice of expropriation.
- The building owners will then have 30 days to request an inquiry with respect to the expropriation. If an inquiry is requested, an inquiry officer will be appointed and the expropriation will be reviewed to determine if it’s necessary to achieve the City’s objectives. At that time, a recommendation will be provided to Council.
- Following an inquiry, or if no inquiry is requested 30 days after the notice of expropriation has been served, the expropriation will be considered by Council. If approved by Council, the City will pay a value based on independent appraisals for the two buildings and ownership will be transferred.
- The building owners will then have one year to file an application related to the cost paid for the building to request additional payment.
- A court hearing would determine if additional payment is necessary.
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 (SRO) hotels with self-contained social housing. The Housing Vancouver Strategy identified SRO revitalization as a key priority area to improve the living conditions of low-income Vancouverites. Expanding and improving housing for low-income residents have also been identified as priorities by both the Provincial and Federal governments.
Vancouver City Council has directed staff to explore partnership opportunities with the provincial and federal governments on a plan for revitalization of private SROs, including the Balmoral and the Regent, and City staff have started those discussions. Over the next 10 years, the City is aiming to replace 50 per cent of the remaining private SROs (approximately 2,000 rooms) with new self-contained social and / or supportive housing; housing that is urgently needed for low-income tenants and those most at-risk of homelessness.
The mechanism for expropriation of private property is defined in the Expropriation Act. Under the Expropriation Act, owners can challenge the expropriation, and the amount of money provided in compensation for the expropriated property.