Van­cou­ver non-profit to man­age derelict ho­tel

The Globe and Mail (Ottawa/Quebec Edition) - - NEWS - WENDY STUECK MIKE HAGER VAN­COU­VER

A non-profit group has reached an agree­ment to man­age Van­cou­ver’s Re­gent Ho­tel, a sin­gle­room oc­cu­pancy build­ing on the city’s Down­town East­side that has a his­tory of health and safety vi­o­la­tions and has be­come a press­ing con­cern for city of­fi­cials.

Atira Devel­op­ment So­ci­ety, a di­vi­sion of Van­cou­ver-based Atira Women’s Re­source So­ci­ety, has signed a six-month in­terim lease and is sched­uled to be­gin run­ning the prop­erty on Thurs­day, Atira chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Jan­ice Ab­bott said Wed­nes­day in an interview.

The build­ing is owned by Van­cou­ver’s Sa­hota fam­ily, who own sev­eral run-down SROs in the neigh­bour­hood and in re­cent months have faced pres­sure from the city and hous­ing ad­vo­cates to im­prove con­di­tions at their build­ings. The man­age­ment change was to have taken ef­fect ear­lier this month but was de­layed so fur­ther ne­go­ti­a­tions could take place. Although a lease has now been reached, Ms. Ab­bott cau­tioned against ex­pect­ing in­stant re­sults, not­ing the city’s data­base of rental prop­er­ties with health or safety is­sues lists more than 500 at the Re­gent.

“Even if we had un­lim­ited money, it would take time to get through all of those,” she said. “Part of our job over the next six months is to work with the city, work with the Sa­ho­tas, work with other stake­hold­ers … and just put a plan in place for how this all moves for­ward,” Ms. Ab­bott said.

“Our plan is to im­prove as much as we can the safety and se­cu­rity and well-be­ing of the ten­ants who are there … but it will be a lot of work go­ing for­ward to sort this out,” she added.

The Sa­ho­tas still own the build­ing, and ma­jor build­ing sys­tems – such as the ex­te­rior walls and plumb­ing and elec­tric­ity – re­main their re­spon­si­bil­ity, she said.

Atira’s pri­or­i­ties will in­clude pest con­trol, con­firm­ing rental agree­ments with ten­ants and im­prov­ing se­cu­rity by, for ex­am­ple, re­plac­ing or re­pair­ing bro­ken or miss­ing locks.

Ms. Ab­bott would not say how many staff mem­bers might be in­volved, say­ing such details have yet to be de­ter­mined. Atira will likely im­pose a 30-day ban on guests to help de­ter­mine who lives in the build­ing and to cut down on il­licit ac­tiv­ity in the build­ing, with ex­cep­tions made for fam­ily mem­bers and sup­port work­ers, she said.

Un­der the agree­ment, Atira has agreed to pay the own­ers $10 a month to lease the build­ing. Rents will be used to off­set the costs of run­ning the build­ing.

The Re­gent, an eight-storey struc­ture built in 1913, is one of dozens of SROs – some pub­liclyowned – that pro­vide what the city calls “hous­ing of last resort” to low-in­come ten­ants, many of whom are liv­ing with men­tal ill­ness or have prob­lems with sub­stance abuse.

The city’s rental data­base says the build­ing has 158 units. Atira is still as­sess­ing the num­ber of ten­ants in the build­ing. Ten­ants cur­rently pay be­tween $350 and $525 per month in rent, with most pay­ing around $425. Atira will likely set rents around that level, Ms. Ab­bott said.

Pal Sa­hota, a fam­ily mem­ber, did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment. An as­so­ciate, who was in­volved in lease ne­go­ti­a­tions with Atira, also did not re­ply to a re­quest for com­ment.

Ac­cord­ing to prop­erty records, the Sa­ho­tas ac­quired the build­ing in 1989, for $1.5-mil­lion. Its as­sessed value in 2018 is $12.2-mil­lion. There are two $1-mil­lion mort­gages reg­is­tered on the build­ing, but those charges date to 1991, and sev­eral peo­ple fa­mil­iar with mort­gages said those have likely been paid off.

The fam­ily is fac­ing fore­clo­sure pro­ceed­ings on three other build­ings.

There have been long-stand­ing com­plaints about pests, fire haz­ards, bro­ken toi­lets and other prob­lems at the Re­gent.

Last year, fol­low­ing an en­gi­neer’s struc­tural re­view of the Re­gent, the city or­dered re­pairs to “dam­age caused to long-term leak­ing from the plumb­ing and build­ing en­ve­lope,” adding in a De­cem­ber state­ment that “tem­po­rary bracing and sup­ports have been put in place to en­sure the safety and sta­bil­ity of the build­ing.”

A few months pre­vi­ous, in June, 2017, the city or­dered an­other Sa­hota-owned SRO, the Bal­moral, closed for fire and struc­tural con­cerns.

This week, busi­nesses run­ning two bars on the main floor of the Cobalt, an­other Sa­hota-owned SRO a few blocks from the Re­gent, an­nounced that they may be leaving the premises so the own­ers can do much-needed re­pairs to the base­ment, which, un­der a city per­mit, must be­gin by the start of May.

Our plan is to im­prove as much as we can the safety and se­cu­rity and well-be­ing of the ten­ants who are there. JAN­ICE AB­BOTT ATIRA CHIEF EX­EC­U­TIVE OF­FI­CER

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