Artist live-work rentals at Railtown Studios questioned
A Gastown resident has claimed that his landlord is not fulfilling an obligation to the City of Vancouver to provide live-work spaces for artists.
Gordon Brent Ingram said in a phone interview that Rossmore Enterprises, a subsidiary of Reliance Holdings, has been evicting artists from 321 Railway Street, also known as Railtown Studios.
Ingram also said that Reliance is charging high rental rates. He alleged that Reliance has taken in tenants who are not actually artists.
Ingram, who describes himself as an urban designer involved in public art, added that the City of Vancouver has not enforced provisions of a bylaw that designated the 38-unit property as live-work studios for artists.
“The developer had a commitment for artist live-work rental but now they’re renting it at Coal Harbour rates, like West Side rates,” Ingram told the Straight.
Reliance controller Lynn Luong rejects all these claims.
“When we rent to someone, we tell them that it’s an art live-work building, and you have to be an artist and you have to do some art work,” Luong told the Straight in a phone interview. “Majority of artists, if you think about it, they have a job somewhere doing something else and art is just their part-time thing. How do you define artist in that sense? We try to get people to do as much art as it should be, but some people come and say, ”˜Yes, I’m an artist. I’m doing this as my hobby.’ And you know, do you stop these people from renting from us? No, because they’re artists in some sort, right?”
Luong also said that tenants are evicted only if they don’t comply with the rules and policies of the building. She added that the rent Reliance charges is comparable to that in other nearby cities. “Our rent is not much more than if you live in New West,” she said.
Coalition of Progressive Electors councillor Ellen Woodsworth told the Straight that she is familiar with the situation at 321 Railway.
“When people leave, they’re actually then increasing the rents and getting people who may or may not be artists and who are then in a much higher rent, which is exactly the opposite to the reason why these units were created,” Woodsworth said in a phone interview.
Ingram said he will make a presentation about 321 Railway to Will Johnston, the city’s director of licenses and inspections, in a meeting today (July 7) at City Hall, starting at 3:30 p.m.