Vancouver takes over ownership of Balmoral and Regent Hotels

The City of Vancouver has taken over ownership of two notoriously neglected  Downtown Eastside rooming houses.

After years of enforcement actions and litigation against the previous owners of the Balmoral and Regent Hotels, Vancouver announced Friday that it has reached a settlement with the Sahotas to expropriate both properties.

Updated land title records now list the city, not the Sahotas, as the owners of the buildings at 159 and 160 East Hastings.

“Bringing the Regent and Balmoral into public ownership marks a hopeful new beginning for residents of the Downtown Eastside and something all residents should be proud of,” said Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “Downtown Eastside residents will be at the centre of creating a new vision for these two sites, and indeed the entire community.

This development has been in the works for more than three years. The hotels, which had been operated as single-room occupancybuildings, were home to more than 300 of the city’s most vulnerablepeople before they were ordered shut over safety concerns in 2017and 2019.

The city approved the expropriation of the buildings for $1 in late2019, but faced a legal challenge from the owners. The value of the settlement announced Friday was not disclosed.

The transfer of ownership now finalized, Vancouver will move swiftly to begin work with B.C. Housing on converting both buildings into safe and secure low-incoming housing.

“For too long, people had to live in sub-standard living conditions in these buildings,” said David Eby, B.C.’s housing minister. “We look forward to working with the City to turn these buildings into the kind of homes people will be proud to live in for years to come.”

The city committed Friday to community engagement during this process, citing “the significance of the two properties to the Downtown Eastside community,”

A timeline for the revitalization of these properties is expected early in the new year.

with files from the Canadian Press

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