B.C. Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Selina Robinson takes questions in the B.C. legislature, July 13, 2020. (Hansard TV)

Hotel rooms for B.C. homeless too hasty, NDP government told

Businesses forced out, but crime goes down, minister says

When the B.C. government bought Victoria’s Comfort Inn in May to house people camped out along Pandora Avenue and in a city-authorized tent camp at Topaz Park, a Victoria hair salon operator leasing in the building found out from media reports.

B.C. Liberal MLA Jas Johal told the B.C. legislature July 13 that the salon operator’s first contact from B.C. Housing about the switch from hotel to shelter was via a construction worker who showed up to board up the windows of her shop, All About Hue Hair Designs.

Most of the customers cancelled their appointments after a fire in early June left 20 suites and the salon with water damage, Johal said, as he and other opposition MLAs called for compensation to people caught up in the rush to dismantle tent camps in the COVID-19 pandemic.

B.C. Liberal MLA Todd Stone described the fate of Paul’s Diner after another Victoria hotel, Paul’s Motor Inn, was taken over for transition housing.

Crime and disorder have made he property unviable for tenant businesses, Stone said, quoting the Paul’s Diner operator: “So far, the only solution that’s been offered for us is writing off $150,000 in renovations, killing 20 good local jobs and giving up on our dream that we we all worked so hard to achieve. If the government doesn’t fix this, it will ruin us.”

Housing Minister Selina Robinson was combative in her responses, accusing the B.C. Liberals of allowing the homeless issue to grow unattended. “We’re cleaning up their mess,” she said, adding that crime declines in the area after an initial period of disorder.

RELATED: Fire at Victoria hotel after 90 campers moved inside

RELATED: City to book more Victoria hotel rooms for campers

In fact the previous government began the acquisition of hotels and motels more than a decade ago, spending hundreds of millions to buy and renovate single-room occupancy hotels in Vancouver’s downtown east side, a long-time magnet for drugs, prostitution and social problems. The program has expanded to motels in other communities.

“We reached out to all of the tenants in all of our purchases and encouraged them to continue operating their businesses,” Robinson said. “We will certainly maintain their leases, and we certainly engaged with them around next steps.”

B.C. Liberal housing critic Joan Isaacs has been pressing Robinson on the effects of emptying Oppenheimer Park in Vancouver, one of a long series of protest camps that have been staged around the Lower Mainland in recent years.

Isaacs described a 400 per cent increase in crime reports in the downtown Vancouver neighbourhood of Yaletown after people camping in Oppenheimer Park were moved into hotel spaces.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislatureCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Plane crashes into Nelson supermarket parking lot

Pilot and passenger have minor injuries

Phase three presents new opportunities for Kootenay tourism

Message from MLA Michelle Mungall and MLA Katrine Conroy

Castlegar seniors asked to share their COVID experiences

Research project looks for information to help improve life for local seniors

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Canadians can travel to Hawaii in September; no quarantine with negative COVID test

Travellers will be required to pay for their own tests prior to arriving

Alberta to require masks at schools this fall, but still no mandate in B.C.

B.C. students are also set to return to classrooms in September

Anonymous letters tell Vancouver Island family their kids are too loud

Letter said the noise of kids playing in Parksville backyard is ‘unbearable’

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

U.S. border communities feel loss of Canadian tourists, shoppers and friends

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 2`

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

Most Read