Evacuation order for Vancouver's Balmoral Hotel
Published Friday, June 2, 2017 2:51PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, June 2, 2017 9:48PM EDT
The City of Vancouver has issued an order of evacuation for a rundown rental building in the Downtown Eastside that some long-time residents say will leave them homeless.
In a statement posted online, the city said that building officials determined that repairs to the Balmoral Hotel, a “single room occupancy” building with 176 rooms, are needed “to ensure that the building does not collapse.”
The city said it “expects the owners to immediately commence the repair work” once tenants are out of the building. If there is no compliance, the city will undertake the work, at its own expense, and send a bill to the owner. The building’s assessed value is $10 million and the repairs are expected to cost $1 million.
On Friday morning, more than a dozen police and firefighters entered the building to inform the building’s roughly 150 residents that they must leave by June 12.
Deputy City Manager Paul Mochrie described the city’s concerns at a press conference.
“The wooden structure, the interior of the building, is severely compromised due to water damage and rot,” he said. “There are also a very long list of very serious fire safety issues.”
The notice comes just a day after fed-up residents took their complaints about living conditions there to city hall, saying they want their home repaired, not condemned.
A group of protesters held a sit-in at Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson’s office Thursday night, saying he wasn’t doing enough to crack down on the building’s owners.
Residents of the Balmoral Hotel live with overflowing garbage rooms, hallways that reek of urine and shared bathrooms with holes in the ceilings. Also among the filth are rats that scurry through the walls, used needles, mould and squatters.
Rent for a room in the building is pegged at between $450-900 per month – much lower than the average price for a one-bedroom apartment in the city, which was estimated at $1,870 in January.
Edward Millard said he has lived at the Balmoral for eight years, after a period of homelessness. He said the eviction will probably leave him homeless again.
Earlier this week, the City of Vancouver ordered a structural review of the building. In the meantime, the bathrooms were shut off for safety reasons.
“I’ve experienced deplorable conditions, conditions that no human being should have to endure,” resident Nicole Kroeker told the gathering of protesters outside the mayor’s office on Thursday night. “This is why we’re here, to get the support we need, to get people to help us fix our home.”
Councillor Geoff Meggs was at the sit-in and listened to the group’s concerns. But he hinted that the residents would soon be forced to find new homes. A report, he said, indicated that there should be “dramatic action” taken to make the building safe, which in turn, could have “dire consequences.”
In an interview from her apartment unit, Kroeker told CTV Vancouver Thursday that she hopes it doesn’t come to that.
“We’re willing to work with the city if immediate evacuation is necessary,” she said, but she’d rather the owners invest in the repairs so that some of Vancouver’s most vulnerable tenants can keep a roof over their heads.
Kroeker, whose bachelor suite has a severely cracked and damaged ceiling, said she wasn’t expecting such horrible living conditions.
“This was actually an upgrade from living on the streets so we just kind of took it (and said) we’ll make it home,” she said.
“And we just really never knew what we were getting ourselves into.”
Wendy Pedersen, an organizer with the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative Society, said it’s up to the city to hold landlords accountable.
“Until the city does that, nothing is going to change and more homeless people are going to be on the street,” she said.
With a report from CTV’s Melanie Nagy and files from CTV Vancouver’s Ben Miljure