BC Housing has scooped up three more hotels in Vancouver, following news earlier this week that federal funding would create permanent supportive housing units at three other downtown properties.
BC Housing said Thursday it has purchased the Patricia Hotel at 403 E. Hastings St. and two single-room occupancy hotels at 956 Main St. and 1012 Main St.
The Crown corporation had already purchased 103 E. Hastings St. and 1025 Granville St. — SRO buildings formerly run as tourist hostels — as well as a Ramada hotel at 435 W. Pender St.
Earlier this week, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. announced $56.7 million to help fund permanent supportive housing at the Granville and West Pender hotels and at 103 E. Hastings, a property currently being run as a shelter by PHS Community Services Society.
The six properties include 437 units of housing.
BC Housing leased several hotels and hostels in the spring of 2020 to use as emergency housing during the pandemic, but has also been on a buying spree, snapping up mid- to low-end hotels across the city.
In May 2020, some of the newly leased hotel rooms were used to house people who had been living in a tent city at Oppenheimer Park. The city and province are in the midst of clearing another encampment that has been located at Strathcona Park for 10 months and offering people alternative housing is key to that attempt.
“These properties, along with the three already announced and our new temporary shelters, will help us reach our target of opening up enough dignified inside spaces for everyone currently living outdoors at Strathcona Park by the end of April,” B.C. Attorney General David Eby said in a news release.
BC Housing says the Patricia Hotel will provide over 100 housing units that will be “activated quickly” to help house people living at Strathcona Park and who are homeless elsewhere in the city.
It also says all the housing will include “wraparound supports.” Current long-term tenants at the Patricia will be given support as the building transitions to social housing, according to BC Housing.
The province spent $63.8 million for the Patricia Hotel and nearby parking lot; $4.9 million for the hotel at 956 Main St.; and $6.8 million for 1012 Main St. The federal government spent a total of $56.7 million to buy 103 E. Hastings St., 1025 Granville St. and 435 W. Pender St.
The province will provide operating funding for those properties: $38 million for 435 W. Pender; $14.5 million for 1025 Granville; and $4.2 million for 103 E. Hastings.
PHS Community Services has been operating 103 E. Hastings as a shelter for several months. The building has been useful to use as transitional housing and keep couples and friends together, said Tanya Fader, director of housing for PHS.
Julie Roberts, the executive director of Community Builders, said it’s been gratifying to see federal, provincial and municipal governments coming together to move quickly to purchase buildings for housing.
“I do feel a renewed sense of urgency and some energy that says we just can’t let this go on as it is,” said Roberts, whose organization runs 1025 Granville St. The property has been leased by BC Housing since June and housed some people who had been living at Oppenheimer Park.
“We really think that this energy and this focus on protecting the most vulnerable people that are on the street will be one of the small silver linings to come out of this pandemic that has affected all of our lives. People on the streets trying to self-isolate with nowhere to go is something that really highlighted the need for housing.”
Residents of 1025 Granville St. previously told The Tyee they hoped to stay at the leased building permanently.
Martin, who had been homeless for three years before ending up in the hospital with pneumonia, went to the hostel last June.
“It’s fantastic here,” Martin said. “It’s safe and it’s clean, they feed us if we’re hungry. They really take good care of us. I hope I’m staying here for life!”
Roberts said residents will be told of the purchase over the next few days, but word had already trickled out on Wednesday.
Residents enjoying the sun in front of the building told The Tyee they were relieved to hear they would be able to stay at their new home, which was previously operated as a tourist hostel by Hostelling International Canada.