Vancouver, Sahota family reach settlement on SRO bylaw violations
The city of Vancouver and the Sahota family – who own vast swathes of real estate on the Downtown Eastside – have reached a settlement on bylaw violations at the Balmoral and Regent hotels.
The Sahotas – a family headed by three siblings who own single resident occupancy (SRO) hotels, apartments blocks, office buildings and homes – have been battling the city over plans to expropriate both the Balmoral and Regent after the two buildings were shut down in 2017 over bylaw charges and structural concerns.
In a statement, the city said the Sahotas pleaded guilty to the majority of bylaw violations against them, paying a $150,000 fine and making two charitable donations "after decades of underinvestment and mismanagement."
The Union Gospel Mission has received $20,000 and EMBERS EastSide Works was given $5,000.
"The legal avenues that were available to the city prosecutor were limited and we recognize that the value of the resolution does not reflect the historic harm done to the Downtown Eastside community through the unsafe conditions of these two buildings," the city said in a statement.
But Coun. Jean Swanson – who spent years as an advocate for those living on the Downtown Eastside – says she isn't impressed by the settlement.
"I think the Sahotas deserve worse than that," she told CTV News Vancouver.
Swanson says that whenever she thinks of the hotels, she remembers seeing one tenant's bed filled with mouse tunnels. It smelled of mouse pee, she said, and the Sahotas refused to provide repairs.
"There's so many people who died in those hotels, people were treated so badly. It's just awful."
Court records show two companies named as operators of the buildings faced hundreds of violations ranging from a failure to maintain sinks and toilets to failing to keep walls, floors and stairs in good repair.
In 2018, the city filed expropriation notices for the SROs in an attempt to transfer the properties to public ownership.
The non-profit group that had taken over running the Regent called the state of the building "a nightmare."
"There were areas of the building where there was so much water ingress the floors were spongey, so you would literally sink into the wooden floors in the back corners of the building. Most of the washrooms weren't working. There were people sleeping in the hallways," said Janice Abbott with the Atira Women's Resource Society at the time.
The closure of the two hotels resulted in more than 300 low income tenants needing new housing.
Despite the settlement over the bylaw violations, the dispute about the buildings and expropriation continues.
"This resolution is independent of the expropriation process for the Balmoral and Regent Hotels. That process is ongoing and the Sahotas have withdrawn their request for an inquiry," the city said.