Tenants in the Clifton Hotel on Granville Street are disputing eviction notices asking them to vacate the SRO building by the end of this month.
Jean Swanson with the Carnegie Community Action Project said there are about 40 tenants left in the Clifton Hotel. Twenty-seven of them have filed a joint appeal with B.C.’s Residential Tenancy Branch, and others are filing individual appeals.
“The landlord plans to renovate and then charge high rents that these people can’t afford,” Swanson said at a news conference outside the building today (June 5).
“The problem is that these SRO hotels like the Clifton are the last stop before homelessness, and if these people are evicted, there’s really no place for them to go.”
According to Swanson and Clifton Hotel tenant Francis Filimenti, the state of the building has been deteriorating, with problems including mice and cockroaches.
Filimenti said sometimes there is no hot water, or the washrooms don’t work. Building conditions seen by reporters today included an out-of-order shower held together with duct tape and an empty room occupied by pigeons.
“It’s in an atrocious, terrible state that no one should have to live in,” said Swanson.
CCAP called on the city and the province to take further steps to protect the tenants, such as requiring non-profit management of the building as a condition of the hotel’s business licence.
“They could use the municipal permit process to guarantee that there’s no rent increases [after renovations],” said Swanson.
“They could define renovictions as a conversion under the SRA bylaw, so that owners who renovict have to pay the city and would be less likely to do it.”
Vision Vancouver councillor Kerry Jang said the condition of the building came to the city’s attention about two years ago.
“It was really rundown,” Jang told the Straight by phone.
“Multiple life and safety issues, to the point where we had to force the landlord to make some repairs to bring it up to basic living standards, and we even went so far as to threaten a court injunction, and then he finally did it.”
But the building is still rundown and requires repairs, said Jang, who added city staff have been to the building to offer assistance to residents in relocating.
“We have to enforce the maintenance of the building, and it’s really up to the RTB to provide some protection," he said. “We’ve said over and over again: the province needs to create a special category under the RTB for SROs.
"And the second piece of course is some sort of rent subsidy in order to make up that difference, because the landlord has to make his money back from all these renovations," he added. "All he can do is get it through increased rents.”
Building owner Abolghasem Abdollahi said he spent between $200,000 to $300,000 on repairs last year, but there is a structural problem that requires major renovations to the building.
“The structural problem is quite deep,” he said in a phone interview, adding new plumbing and electrical are needed.
“We cannot do it unless nobody [is] in the building.”
Abdollahi expects the renovations to cost between $3 and $4 million.
“The building is not safe based on the structural report,” he said. “That’s why I decided to give the notice to people.”
The Residential Tenancy Branch hearing for the joint appeal from Clifton Hotel residents is scheduled for July 15.