Vancouver non-profit takes over run-down SROs in Downtown Eastside
Atira is now managing two decrepit single-room occupancy hotels for at least six months
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Atira Women's Resource Society has signed a six-month contract with the Sahotas to manage two of their most run-down residential properties – the Regent and the Balmoral.
The city shut down the Balmoral Hotel (159 E. Hastings St.) in June 2017 over fears the building may collapse, but people are still allowed to live in the Regent, a single-room occupancy hotel located across the street.
Atira, a non-profit that operates several social housing developments in Metro Vancouver, says it wants to renew its lease with the Sahotas but is using the next six months to assess living conditions in the Regent.
"We hope to renew the lease, but there are many things we don’t know about the building yet and we needed six months to understand better what the needs are," said Janice Abbott, CEO of Atira.
Abbott says Atira plans to set up a shared drug-use room at the Regent for tenants. Atira has already set up similar rooms, which operate like overdose prevention sites, at several other buildings it manages.
The non-profit also plans to impose a 30-day ban on guests at the site, in order to identify people who are actually tenants and those who frequent the building without signing a rental agreement.
Community leaders told Metro in early February that more than a third of the people living at the Regent are not tenants but instead pay staff an hourly rate to use the rooms, bathrooms, or hallways. The situation sometimes leads to violent altercations, according to tenants.
Atira staff will also address pest control issues and security concerns, but not major building repairs because of time constraints, said Abbott.
A city spokesperson said in a written statement that it expects Atira to repair both the Regent and the Balmoral in order to bring them up to "safe, livable standards."
The city is currently prosecuting the Sahota family in court on 426 building and fire bylaw violations.
Abott says Atira negotiated with the Sahotas for two years to finalize the contract. The family pulled out of negotiations at the last minute two weeks ago, but finalized the contract last week.