Charity makes an offer on the Balmoral and Regent, hoping to turn the vacant hotels into low-income rental housing

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      There’s nowhere in Vancouver that the city’s housing crisis is felt more acutely than the Downtown Eastside. And yet some 200 beds on the East Hastings 100 block sit empty.

      There’s a good reason for that. The city declared the two buildings—the Sahota-owned Balmoral and Regent hotels—too dangerous for tenant. In June 2017 and June 2018, respectively, authorities ordered their mandatory evacuations.

      But that was more than a year ago now, so where do things stand on getting this large and rare block of low-income units back onto the market?

      The city has been trying to appropriate the buildings with the ultimate goal of seeing them renovated and turned into supportive-housing sites. But that plan is moving nowhere fast.

      Now a private charity has come forward and said it has made an offer on the Balmoral and the Regent, proposing to pay “fair market value” for the decrepit buildings at 159 East Hastings Street and 160 East Hastings Street.

      According to the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver-based Heritage Charitable Foundation approached the Sahotas last week and provided them with a dollar figure that the group hopes is enough to convince the family to relinquish their long-time control of the two hotels.

      Heritage Charitable Foundation director Lisa Giesbrecht told the Globe that her group’s goal is to renovate the Balmoral and the Regent and return them to the market as low-cost rental housing.

      “We are confident in our privately financed ways that we can go faster and cheaper [than government],” Giesbrecht said.

      One June 12, the city of Vancouver revealed that in 2019, the number of homeless people had increased for the fourth year in a row.

      There were 2,223 homeless residents counted this year, compared to 2,181 in 2018, 2,138 the year before that, and 1,847 in 2017.

      According to a staff presentation, 44 percent of Vancouver’s homeless population struggles with a mental illness and 38 percent live with a physical disability.