BC government buys two Vancouver hotels to help house homeless

Jun 24 2020, 3:43 pm

The BC government said on Wednesday that it has purchased two Vancouver hotels at a combined cost of $74.4 million in an effort to provide housing to those experiencing homelessness.

“Housing is the foundation of people’s lives and of healthy, safe communities,” said BC Housing Minister Selina Robinson. “We’re taking action to build more affordable rental homes in Vancouver, as we continue to provide supportive housing and health care to people right now.”

Through BC Housing, the province said it has purchased the 110-room Howard Johnson Hotel, located at 1176 Granville Street for $55 million, as part of a long-term plan to build a mix of affordable homes for people in Vancouver.

In the interim though, the site will operate as temporary supportive housing while long-term plans are developed.

The province said that BC Housing will connect with partners and the community “to begin the conversation about how the site and the adjacent parking lot can be used to tackle the housing crisis and build a mix of homes for people in Vancouver.”

The province has also purchased the 63-room Buchan Hotel at 1906 Haro Street, for $19.4 million to provide housing with supports for women. The site is currently empty, and residents will begin moving into the Buchan in July.

“The purchase of these hotels holds great short- and long-term potential for providing much-needed safe and secure housing that goes beyond four walls and a bed,” said BC Minister of Poverty Reduction Shane Simpson. “We are working to develop a model of supportive housing that meets people’s needs with appropriate health, mental health and addictions supports, and creates opportunities to live a safer, healthier life as part of a community.”

The province said Atira Women’s Resource Society will operate the housing at both hotels, which include wraparound supports where people have access to services such as meals, health care, addictions treatment and harm reduction, as well as storage for personal belongings.

The sites also have 24/7 staffing to provide security to residents of the building and the surrounding neighbourhood.

“Atira is thrilled to be a partner in this essential housing,” said Atira CEO Janice Abbott.

The announcement of the purchases was also applauded by Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has put into even-sharper focus our urgent need for housing, especially for our most vulnerable neighbours,” he said. “These hotel rooms will provide immediate safety and shelter while we work with the Province and the community to develop the long-term vision. I cannot thank the Government of BC enough for its leadership.”