The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Before you click away, we have something to ask you…

Do you value independent journalism that focuses on the issues that matter? Do you think Canada needs more in-depth, fact-based reporting? So do we. If you’d like to be part of the solution, we’d love it if you joined us in working on it.

The Tyee is an independent, paywall-free, reader-funded publication. While many other newsrooms are getting smaller or shutting down altogether, we’re bucking the trend and growing, while still keeping our articles free and open for everyone to read.

The reason why we’re able to grow and do more, and focus on quality reporting, is because our readers support us in doing that. Over 5,000 Tyee readers chip in to fund our newsroom on a monthly basis, and that supports our rockstar team of dedicated journalists.

Join a community of people who are helping to build a better journalism ecosystem. You pick the amount you’d like to contribute on a monthly basis, and you can cancel any time.

Help us make Canadian media better by joining Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
Get our free newsletter
Sign Up
News
  |  
Rights + Justice
  |  
Housing
  |  
Municipal Politics

Vancouver Council Votes for $1-Billion SRO Purchase Plan

Under the plan, city will seek funds from the BC and federal governments to buy up to 105 hotels.

Jen St. Denis 15 Oct 2020 | TheTyee.ca

Jen St. Denis is The Tyee’s Downtown Eastside reporter. Find her on Twitter @JenStDen. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

Vancouver city council has voted unanimously to move forward with a $1-billion single-room occupancy hotel purchasing strategy, and to also explore stricter rent control and strengthen protections for tenants who live in the buildings.

Under the plan, the city will pursue $1 billion in funding from the provincial and federal governments to buy up to 105 SRO hotel buildings. Around 2,500 rooms in the buildings would be renovated or redeveloped into self-contained units with their own bathrooms.

The SRO plan is separate from a previous decision to spend $30 million to buy or lease hotels, apartment buildings and SRO buildings to address an uptick in homelessness in the city because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Wendy Pedersen, a housing activist who founded the SRO Collaborative, praised the plan as a “watershed moment for the Downtown Eastside.”

“Not since the early '70s has the city been so bold in its vision and so responsive to community,” she told council.

SRO hotels provide housing for around 5,000 low-income people in Vancouver. The hotels — many of them built over 100 years ago — feature tiny 100 to 320 square-foot rooms and shared bathrooms. Some also have shared kitchens.

Most of Vancouver’s SRO hotels are located in the Downtown Eastside, Strathcona and Chinatown, but some are also located in other parts of Vancouver’s downtown.

The worst buildings are in extreme disrepair, with problems like mould, infestations, broken fire suppression systems, no heat or hot water and frequent elevator breakdowns.

In 2017 and 2018, the city ordered the two worst SROs in the city — the Balmoral and the Regent — to close because the buildings were unsafe. For the first time, the city used its powers of expropriation to take control of the buildings from their owners, the Sahota family. The expropriation attempt is still before the courts.

Around half of the city’s SROs are now owned by non-profit organizations, the province or the city. But for the other half that remain in private hands, there’s ongoing pressure to sell to investors. Many of those investor owners have done “minor renovations” to many of the buildings and now charge rents far above what most people living in poverty can afford.

That’s creating a “ripple effect” of increased homelessness and encampments, city staff told council.

There are now only 77 private rooms that charge the social assistance “shelter rate” of $375, while most rooms are rented at an average of $560. Renovated rooms are being rented to students or service industry workers at rents that range from $700 to $1,600.

Erica Grant lives in an SRO operated by a non-profit housing provider. It’s not a dignified way to live, Grant told city councillors, and it’s impossible to follow COVID-19 guidelines with shared bathrooms and shared kitchens.

“I honestly do not want to live my last days in an SRO,” Grant said. “None of us need to be living this way.”

City staff will also be looking into what tools the city can use to prevent rents from rising when a tenant moves out and a new person moves in and reporting back to council. City staff can now compel SRO owners to give them information about how much rent they charge.

The new plan also strengthens tenant protections: tenants who have to move out because of redevelopment or building closure will get compensation based on length of tenancy, and $750 for moving expenses.

Council will also be able to charge building owners who are applying for building permits $230,000 “to fund the costs of replacing a room that is being removed” from the SRO stock.  [Tyee]

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free

Tyee Commenting Guidelines

Do not:

  •  Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully, threaten, name-call or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, downvote, or flag suspect activity
  • Attempt to guess other commenters’ real-life identities

Do:

  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls and flag violations
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Stay on topic
  • Connect with each other

LATEST STORIES

The Barometer

Tyee Poll: Are You Preparing for the Next Climate Disaster?

Take this week's poll