THE City of Vancouver has reached a settlement with the owners of the Balmoral and Regent hotels to expropriate the properties.
The settlement, which has been approved by Vancouver City Council, ensures that the City can move forward with BC Housing to turn the buildings into safe and secure low-income housing.
“Bringing the Regent and Balmoral into public ownership marks a hopeful new beginning for residents of the Downtown Eastside and something all residents should be proud of,” said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “Downtown Eastside residents will be at the centre of creating a new vision for these two sites, and indeed the entire community. I want to thank City Council, the Government of BC, and BC Housing for continuing to work together with the community to provide housing that is healthy, safe, and supportive — housing that heals lives and changes futures.”
After many years of enforcement and legal action against the owners, who oversaw decades of underinvestment, unaddressed life-safety issues resulted in the closure of these two derelict buildings in 2017 and 2019.
The City approved expropriation of the buildings in late 2019 in order to bring these properties into public ownership to be converted into social housing. The owners then filed for a judicial review of the City’s expropriation.
In the petition for judicial review, Parkash Kaur Sahota, 90, and Pal Singh Sahota, 81, are identified as the owners of the properties.
The decision to settle with the property owners was made by the City to mitigate the financial risk posed by the upcoming judicial review and potential claims for greater compensation, and to enable staff to begin planning for community engagement on the future of the properties.
“For too long, people had to live in sub-standard living conditions in these buildings. The acquisition of these properties is welcome news and I would like to commend the City of Vancouver for their efforts,” said David Eby, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Housing. “We look forward to working with the City to turn these buildings into the kind of homes people will be proud to live in for years to come.”
Given the significance of the two properties to the Downtown Eastside community, and their location at the heart of the neighbourhood, community engagement regarding the future of the buildings is a priority, the City said.
In 2021, the City and BC Housing will conduct a robust engagement process that ensures low-income residents can and do participate in the visioning of these sites.
Staff are aiming to report back to Council on the next steps and timeline for the revitalization of these properties in early 2021.