Downtown Eastside activists expect "war" today if Balmoral Hotel residents don't receive settlement checks

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      Today (June 12) is the deadline for tenants to be out of the Balmoral Hotel, one of the largest and worst-kept low-income buildings in Vancouver.

      Moving trucks were parked up and down the East Hastings 100 block all weekend and on June 11, the City of Vancouver sent out a media release stating it had found alternative housing for “all registered residents” of the Balmoral.

      “We have been able to secure rooms for these tenants by working collectively and by entering into new agreements with some private landlords with vacancies, as well as by calling on our non-profit partners to make space available,” said deputy city manager Paul Mochrie quoted there. “There have also been extraordinary efforts to expedite the turnaround of recently-vacated units and make them available for tenants being evacuated from the Balmoral.”

      But now an activist group called the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative has said it expects “war” today “if tenants do not get settlement cheques”.

      Despite the city and partners’ efforts to move everybody out of the Balmoral, the morning of the eviction deadline, a walk by the building revealed many tenants were still inside.

      “Supporters will also be on hand all day to ensure that tenants are not ‘screwed over’ by the Sahotas [the Balmoral’s owners] who are reluctant, we heard from Balmoral workers, to hand out the tenants’ emergency settlement cheques promised today,” reads a media release sent out by the Downtown Eastside SRO Collaborative.

      “Tenants are eligible for approximately 2 months of rent returned to them, plus their damage deposit,” it continues. “ If tenants take these settlement cheques, they will have to sign a release form that prevents them for suing the landlords for aggravated damages related to the emergency evacuation in the future. Settlement cheques are expected to arrive at 11am. We expect there to be a lot of trouble there if the cheques are not available.”

      The Balmoral Hotel is located at 159 East Hastings Street, just west of Main Street.  The hotel, a single-room-occupancy (SRO) building—which means it consists of very small rooms and only shared bathrooms—has long been regarded as one of the very worst in Vancouver. It’s owned by the Sahota family, which controls a number of similar buildings in the Downtown Eastside such as the Regent Hotel located just across the street.

      An evacuation order for the building was issued on June 2, giving an estimated 150 tenants just 10 days to find a new place to live.

      That was only after Downtown Eastside activists repeatedly, and over many years, called for the city to do more to force the Sahotas to improve conditions at the Balmoral and similar buildings the family has let fall into disrepair.