Vancouver SRO renters have been without heat since Christmas Day

About half of the residents at the Regal Hotel in Vancouver were preparing for a fourth night in a row without heat Tuesday with the outside temperature and values ​​for wind cooling expected to drop to -20 C in the city.

The heat first went out at the SRO hotel on Christmas day, according to several sources, leaving many vulnerable tenants suffering from the bitter cold.

On Tuesday afternoon, a person living and working at the Regal Hotel told the CBC that some repairs had been made but that heat had returned for only half of the 80 units in the 110-year-old building at 1046 Granville Street.

“I’m scared of the other residents,” the person said. “A lot of people don’t really want to say anything because they’ve been asked not to.”

Victoria Desroches has a friend who lives at the Regal Hotel and is recovering from major surgery. She said another night of freezing temperatures could be fatal for him.

“I’m scared,” she said. “He’s not a young man.

“And just to dispel some of the typical myths, he’s not a drug addict, he’s just a man with a disability … He’s paying $ 750 for a bathroom without a bathroom, and he just needs to get well. How do you do it when it’s below zero and you have no heat? “

The Regal Hotel is owned by the Sahota family, notorious for operating dilapidated SROs in Vancouver.

Desrochers said an employee of the City of Vancouver confirmed that city officials knew about the Regal Hotel heat problem on Christmas Day, but that no action was taken until Dec. 27, after she began contacting media with the story.

She said given Sahotas’ record, city officials should have acted earlier.

“The property owner is ultimately responsible, but they have a history of non-compliance to the point where they are neglected,” Desrochers said. “Absolutely nothing was done, even then [the city] knew there was a problem … until the media came forward and asked the city why not? “

The Sahota-owned Balmoral Hotel was shut down by the City of Vancouver in June 2017. (Tina Lovgreen / CBC)

CBC was unable to reach the Sahota family for comment.

In a written statement, the City of Vancouver said its inspection team became aware of the issue on Dec. 27 and followed up immediately.

“Our understanding is that there was a problem earlier in the holiday that the building management was trying to solve, but the problem had arisen again. Our latest information is that the heat has been restored to the building.”

The statement said the city’s building manager and assistant head of electrical inspections would be at the Regal Hotel SRO at some point on Tuesday “to assess the situation and ensure the owner adheres to maintenance standards.”

Desrochers said the Vancouver charity Blanket BC delivered a van full of blankets to residents Tuesday after hearing about their situation in the news.

“If concerned citizens can respond with that kind of empathy and care, then can people with authority not demonstrate the same character?” she asked.

Regal Hotel has 23 unique violations of safety, maintenance and fire regulations, according to a database from the City of Vancouver.

Two Sahota-owned Downtown Eastside SROs – the Balmoral and Regent hotels – were shut down by the city in 2017 and 2018, respectively, due to dangerous and unhygienic conditions.

In 2019, the city council approved expropriating the two buildings for $ 1 each, but after a legal challenge, the city ended up paying $ 11.5 million for the properties.

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