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

Health care priorities debated following surprise funding announcement

Surprise provincial funding stirs debate on local health care priorities during regional meeting

Morning Start: High heels were first designed for men

Your morning start for Monday, Aug. 10, 2020

QUIZ: Do you know the truth?

In what has been described as a post-truth era, how much do you know about truth and lies?

EDITORIAL: Managing wildfires

Wildfires have the potential to cause significant damage within our province

Opening night lineup for online Roots & Blues festival released

The first night of the festival on Aug. 14 will be stacked with favourites from previous years

Canada to match donations to Lebanon relief

Canada is directing all of its aid for this crisis directly to humanitarian organizations, not the Lebanese government

West Kelowna country artist puts COVID-19 grant towards new music

The video for Klick’s latest single “Wonder of the World” is set to debut on Aug. 17

Class resumption raises challenges for Central Okanagan schools

Education ministry directive to resume K-12 classes Sept. 8 creating many questions

Bear put down after being found on Vancouver Island kitchen counter

Bear trapped and killed near Ucluelet after repeated instances of entering sheds and homes

‘We’re glad you’re here’: Positive note left on Alberta car at Kelowna beach

‘Our hearts are full, and this restores all sorts of faith in humanity’

Kelowna RCMP search for missing teen

Reina Hodgins was last seen Aug. 9, 2020 at 12:30 p.m. at her residence

Who can dismiss the Governor General? A look at protocols and possibilities

The Governor General is appointed by the Queen, on the advice of the prime minister

Second phase of NHL draft lottery set for Monday

Each club eliminated from qualifying round has a 12.5 per cent shot at the No. 1 pick

University of Victoria, rowing coach sued over alleged ‘fat shaming’ and verbal abuse

Lawsuit says Barney Williams subjected coxswain Lily Copeland to offensive and belittling language

Most Read