One of the new owners of the American Hotel has refuted concerns that rents will rise as high as $775 a month after the single-room-accommodation building is renovated.
“I guarantee you they won’t be $775,” Steven Lippman, partner of 928 Main Holdings Ltd., named after the address of the site, told the Straight by phone today (September 21). “That’s very wishful thinking.”
At its planning and environment committee meeting on Wednesday (September 22), Vancouver city council will debate whether to issue a single-room-accommodation permit for the 928 Main Street property, which has sat empty since 2006. Its ground-floor pub has been empty since 2004, according to a city staff report.
928 Main Holdings is looking to add three rooms to the 39 existing rooms, for a total of 42, with bathrooms in 38 of them. The owner will charge rents of $400 a month for 10 years in six of the rooms, reopen the pub, and reinvest in the building, according to the staff report, in return for issuance of the SRA permit. The permits prevent flipping of properties that could be used for low-income housing in the city.
“The city is lauding this as a great project,” Downtown Eastside housing activist Wendy Pedersen, researcher and organizer for the Carnegie Community Action Project, said by phone. “The city worked really hard to negotiate a deal with them so that six rooms would be rented at $400 a month out of 42.”
Pedersen said she had heard the $775 figure being floated around, noting that such a rent would require someone to make $31,000 a year to afford to live there “and not be in core need”.
Having refuted the $775 claim, Lippman was initially hesitant to speculate on the rental rates.
“I would say we will be charging between $550 and $650 or $660 a month—something like that,” Lippman said later. “I’m guessing now, but that’s approximately what it’s going to be, I figure.”
Lippman shot back at criticism that rents will be too high, adding that “Carnegie had five years to buy the place and they didn’t”.
Pedersen responded to Lippman’s comment by saying, “The city totally should have bought it.”
She coauthored a Carnegie Community Action Project report, Pushed Out: Escalating Rents in the Downtown Eastside, which was released today.
Pedersen said she’s calling on the Vision Vancouver-dominated city council to purchase five properties per year in the Downtown Eastside—not hotels—for social housing.