Vancouver City Council to vote on expropriation of Balmoral and Regent hotels

FOLLOWING the closure of the Balmoral (159 East Hastings Street) and Regent (160 East Hastings Street) hotels in the Downtown Eastside due to structural and life-safety concerns, Vancouver City Council will vote next week on a recommendation by City of Vancouver staff to expropriate the buildings.

The report is available on the City’s website ahead of the Wednesday, November 6 Council meeting where this item will be discussed.

The City said it was unsuccessful in negotiating an outright purchase of the hotels with the owners, and the report therefore recommends that Council:

* Approve the expropriation of each of the buildings

* Authorize the payment of $1 to the owners for each building based on independent property appraisals obtained by the City

* Approve $350,000 for each of the buildings to ensure they are secure, through additional building hardware, security systems and on-site and mobile patrols

Council can choose to approve the expropriation of one or both of the buildings, or abandon the process with one or both of the buildings. Council is the approving authority under the Expropriation Act.

The $1 valuation is the result of an independent appraisal and takes into account the costs needed to renovate the buildings.

LAST July, the City 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.

It said: “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.”