The province will purchase three downtown properties, including the Patricia Hotel on East Hastings Street, to provide supportive housing for the Strathcona Park campers and other homeless.
In an April 1 release, B.C. Housing and the Ministry of Attorney General and Responsible for Housing announced the upcoming purchase of the Patricia and two hotels at 956 and 1012 Main Street.
The province will pay $63.8 million for the Patricia and a next-door parking lot, $4.9 million for the hotel at 956 Main, and $6.8 milllion for the property at 1012 Main.
The two Main Street properties were not named, but the 956 Main address would put it between the Ivanhoe Hotel to the south and the American Hotel to the north. The American (928 Main) and an adjoining vacant property (938 Main) were purchased by the province in June 2020 for $17.9 million to supply transitional housing for those leaving supportive-housing situations.
"Our government is committed to providing the housing with supports vulnerable people in our community need so no one is forced to live outside in unsafe conditions," Melanie Mark, MLA for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant, said in the relaase. "When we work together to bring people inside, our city and our communities are better off and stronger for it."
There are approximatel 200 to 250 people camping in Strathcona Park. The province and the city have indicated that they want to secure enough temporary and permanent shelter and housing spaces to accommodate all the campers by the end of April.
The Patricia Hotel's general manager made a presentation to the Vancouver police board in July 2019 pleading for increased police presence in the neighbourhood of the century-old building at the corner of East Hastings and Dunlevy Avenue in the Downtown Eastside. The Patricia is one block south of Oppenheimer Park, which at the time of the board meeting contained an estimated 200 tents with homeless campers, an occupation that started in October 2018.
In February this year, Attorney General David Eby announced the opening in April of two new temporary shelters, on Terminal Avenue and West Hastings Street, that will provide 120 beds with supports. On March 4, the city announced the approval of two new temporary modular supported-housing structures near East 1st Avenue and Clark Drive that will make available 98 new living units.
And on March 31, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation announced that it would provide $53.1 million through its Rapid Housing Initiative to create up to 188 new units of supportive housing in three buildings in Vancouver, at 435 West Pender Street (the 80-room Ramada Hotel), 1025 Granville Street (a former SRO turned tourist hotel), and 103 East Hastings (another former SRO now being run as an emergency shelter by a nonprofit). All three are being developed in conjunction with B.C. Housing.
"The properties at 1025 Granville St. and 103 E. Hastings St. were being leased by the Province to provide 108 spaces for people who have needed a safe place to self-isolate during the pandemic," the release said. "Around-the-clock wraparound services will continue at these two sites. Purchasing these two sites means people will be able to remain indoors and will not be displaced onto the street. The Province will support these projects with annual operating funding over 20 years and will continue to consult with the community to support their operations through local community advisory committees.
"In all, these six buildings will deliver about 340 permanent supportive homes and indoor spaces for people experiencing homelessness in the city."
Eby said in the April 1 release that the latest purchases will enable the province to meet its promise to house all the Strathconaa Park campers.
"These properties, along with the three already announced and our new temporary shelters, will help us reach our target of opening up enough dignified inside spaces for everyone currently living outdoors at Strathcona Park by the end of April," Eby said. "Street homelessness and encampments aren't working for anyone in Vancouver—not for people who have been living outside over the winter in unsafe conditions without access to supports, and not for their neighbours who live nearby."
Current long-term residents in the Patricia will receive "appropriate accommodation as the building transitions to supportive housing", according to the release, with about 100 permanent spaces opening up immediately for those experiencing homelessness.
The Main Street hotels, the release noted, will not see any evictions and will immediately house 14 people who are ready to leave shelters, freeing up shelter space for those living outdoors.