News / Vancouver

Renovicted renter refuses to check out of Coast Plaza Hotel

Kathe Ashworth, 66, has lived at the Coast Plaza Hotel on Denman and Comox streets for more than three years and warns she's not going anywhere.

Kathe Ashworth is one of the long-term tenants being evicted from her rental apartment at the Coast Plaza Hotel. The tenants’ rental agreements expire at the end of October, with the building set to shut down in November.

Jennifer Gauthier / For Metro

Kathe Ashworth is one of the long-term tenants being evicted from her rental apartment at the Coast Plaza Hotel. The tenants’ rental agreements expire at the end of October, with the building set to shut down in November.

A well-known downtown Vancouver hotel will shut its doors at the end of November as the building owners prepare to redevelop the building, but one long-term tenant says she has no plans to move.

“It’s like anything in the West End: they kick all the older people out and say we’re going to renovate,” said Kathe Ashworth, 66, who has lived at the Coast Plaza Hotel on Denman and Comox streets for three and a half years. “All they do is paint the walls and put new faucets on.”

Despite signing a fixed-term rental agreement that ends on Oct. 31, Ashworth believes she can hang on through November — and maybe even longer.

The Sidoo family bought the Coast Plaza building in 2010, and in 2012 applied to redevelop the building into a boutique hotel and 316 rental apartments. Many of the rooms are already apartment-sized suites, complete with kitchens.

Coast Plaza had a contract to manage the building and, in that capacity, rented some units to long-term tenants. But the hotel company’s management contract has been terminated and will not be extended past November, said Sarah Kirby-Yung, a spokesperson for Coast Plaza.

“We would have loved to have continue, but we were not successful in getting our lease renegotiated,” Kirby-Yung said. In June 2016 all tenants signed fixed-term rental agreements ending in October 2017, and there was no financial penalty for leaving early, Kirby-Yung said.

The Sidoo family did not reply to an interview request from Metro.

Dan Garrison, a housing planner at the City of Vancouver, said city staff were unaware of the renters and only found out about their existence when some came to a 2016 open house for the redevelopment.

A former tenant told Metro that around 60 tenants were living in the building prior to 2016, but Metro was not able to confirm this number with Coast Plaza.

The city has a tenant relocation policy for purpose-built rental buildings, a policy that requires building owners to give extra notice, more compensation, additional assistance to help vulnerable tenants relocate, and a chance to move back into renovated suites with a 20 per cent discount off market rents.

Morley Shortt, a retired labour lawyer who is a former tenant of the hotel, believes the city’s tenant relocation policy should apply in this case. But the city disagrees.

“The policy is focused on the primary purpose-built rental stock,” Garrison said. “That was the focus of the policy – not commercial that happens to have renters in or secondary suites.”

When development plans involving hotels come to the city in the future, staff will ask about long-term renters, Garrison said.

Shortt moved into the Coast Plaza after selling his condo on Beach Avenue: “I wanted to feel a million dollars in my jeans,” he said. But most of the other renters were “working people” making mid- to low incomes, he said.

Before moving to the Coast Plaza, Ashworth lived in a West End condo that belonged to her late husband, who recently died of Alzheimer’s. When he moved to a nursing home, his children wanted to sell the condo, so she had to leave.

Ashworth is now on a fixed income and is eligible for the SAFER program, a provincial government rent top-up program for seniors.

B.C.’s seniors’ advocate recently told the B.C. legislature that the rent supplement has not kept up with rapidly rising rents and needs to be increased.

“When you see me sitting on Denman Street with my furniture because they kicked me out— I don’t know what they’ll do,” Ashworth sighed. “It’s just the stress of moving.”

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