City of Vancouver considering injunction against Regal Hotel for unsafe conditions

Sep 15 2021, 4:39 pm

A single-room occupancy (SRO) building in the Granville Entertainment District, tenanted to low-income and vulnerable individuals bordering homelessness, is set to face legal action for failing to provide safe living standards.

In a public meeting next week, Vancouver City Council is expected to grant city staff the required permission to have the municipal government’s lawyers seek a court injunction against Regal Eight Management Group, the entity that owns and operates the Regal Hotel at 1046 Granville Street. Regal Eight is owned by BC’s Sahota family.

A Notice in the Land Title Office would also be filed on the property.

City staff are resorting to the court system after multiple building inspections over the years failed to lead to the implementation of improvements that are compliant with city bylaws.

An inspection conducted in May 2018 determined the 1910-built, five-storey building had only one safe exit route from the top floor of the building. This violated the city’s requirement of two exit routes from any floor of a residential building.

The following month, the building owner applied for a building permit to make a “second means of egress,” and the permit was approved by city staff in July 2018.

Almost a year later, an inspection in June 2019 found structural damage to the floor above the ground level’s north commercial retail unit due to long-term exposure to water. This damage is expected to worsen if the repairs are not completed in a timely manner.

An order issued by the city two weeks after the inspection required the owners to apply to include the repairs and complete all work covered under the previously approved permit.

regal hotel sro 1046 granville street vancouver

Regal Hotel SRO at 1046 Granville Street in downtown Vancouver. (Google Maps)

However, as of September 2021, both critical repairs have yet to reach completion.

“This incomplete work amounts to an unsafe condition that threatens the safety of the building’s occupants. City staff have repeatedly contacted the Owner, contractors and consultants about the slow pace of work,” reads a city staff report.

“In order to expedite the necessary work, staff are now recommending that the City seek a court order requiring the work to be completed in a reasonable time.”

Thousands of people live in the downtown Vancouver peninsula’s SROs, which are largely in poor condition and requirement renovations or replacement.

Privately-owned SROs vary widely with rents, level of tenant needs, management practices, and physical conditions. They are generally difficult to optimally maintain and mange with rents affordable to very low-income people without a government subsidy. Criminal and other illicit activity are also common issues at SROs.

Many SROs are in century-old buildings, which may be cost prohibitive for private owners to upgrade. But in recent years, there has been an increase in private investment in SROs in strategic locations on a speculative basis or to maximize revenue from the commercial or retail component of the building.

There were about 6,700 open SRO units in downtown Vancouver in 2019, with 55% privately owned and the remaining 45% owned and operated by a non-profit or a level of government.

In October 2020, Vancouver City Council approved city staff’s long-term strategy of acquiring $1 billion of privately-owned SROs to house the homeless, but this entirely depends on funding from senior governments.

In December 2020, the municipal government reached a settlement with the Sahota family to expropriate two SROs in the Downtown Eastside — the Balmoral at 159 East Hastings Street, and the Regent just across the street at 160 East Hastings Street — due to their extremely poor physical state.

The city reportedly bought both properties in a deal with a combined value of $11.5 million, after failing to proceed with their original plan to acquire the properties for just $1.00 each. The actual deal is reflective of the value of the land, not the dilapidated structures.

downtown south granville street granville entertainment district social housing sros map

Map of SROs, supportive housing, and social housing buildings in Downtown South, in and around the Granville Entertainment District. (Save Our City Vancouver)

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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