Vancouver City Council decides to expropriate Balmoral and Regent hotels

VANCOUVER City Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to expropriate Balmoral and Regent hotels in the Downtown Eastside. The Sahota family that owns the hotels will get $1 for each of them.

The City said that this extraordinary measure was being taken to bring the buildings into public ownership and create new low-income housing.

Kennedy Stewart Photo by Sukhwant Singh Dhillon

“Today’s historic vote to expropriate the Balmoral and Regent Hotels is a clear message that we are not afraid to use every tool at our disposal to create new affordable homes,” said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “The decision to bring the buildings into public ownership was not taken lightly. Safe, secure homes are desperately needed in our city and today’s decision recognizes the impact these buildings had on the Downtown Eastside community.”

Due to decades of underinvestment in the buildings which resulted in structural and life-safety concerns, both buildings were closed and more than 300 of the city’s lowest income residents relocated to safer housing, in partnership with BC Housing.

Staff are in active discussions with the Provincial government, and will continue to seek partnerships with all levels of government for the renovation and/or redevelopment, as well as operations, of the two buildings. The City’s intention is to engage with partners and the community in discussions related to the future of the two buildings.

This decision also follows the City’s unsuccessful attempts to negotiate an outright purchase of the properties with the owners. The City’s previous offers were guided by assessed land value.

Council directed staff to compensate the building owners $1 per building, and $1,000 to the owner of the Regent Pub for the pub lease. The $1 valuations are the result of independent appraisals obtained by the City and take into account the significant costs needed to renovate the buildings. Council also approved $350,000 for each building for security systems, additional hardware and on-site and mobile patrols to ensure the buildings are secured against re-entry.

The Downtown Eastside plan calls for increased affordable housing options, including prioritizing the delivery of shelter rate homes.  Since the start of 2019, more than 230 shelter rate units have opened or are currently under construction in the Downtown Eastside, with another 155 shelter rates units approved for development in the area. This includes temporary modular housing open in the neighbourhood.

The report presented to Council is available online here.

The appraisal for the Balmoral can be viewed here. The appraisal for the Regent can be viewed here. The appraisal for the leasehold of the Regent Pub can be viewed here.

Expropriation process

·         Prior to filing the expropriation notices, the City made offers to the building owners to purchase both hotels. The offers were not accepted by the building owners.

·         Now that Council has approved the expropriation, the City has 30 days to provide the advance payments to the building owners. Within 30 days of making the advance payments, the City must file vesting notices at the land title office which will transfer the land to City ownership.

·         The City will pay the building owners $1 per building. This value was based on independent building appraisals commissioned by the City as part of the expropriation process

·         The process for expropriation of private property is defined in the Expropriation Act. Under the Expropriation Act, owners can challenge the validity of the expropriation by way of judicial review, and the amount of money provided in compensation for the expropriated property. 

·         The building owners have one year from the date of the advance payment to challenge the compensation received through the expropriation process. A court will then determine if any additional compensation is payable to the owners.