Investors furious over rooming-house fees

The city of Vancouver has moved to get tough on investors converting low-income single-room units into hotels, raising the fees from $15,000 to $125,000 per unit, something that has irked many so far.

"This is a form of expropriation with an evasion of the rules of expropriation," Jonathan Baker, a lawyer in Vancouver told the Vancouver Sun. "If the city wants to keep SRO hotels as SRO, let them buy them. Expropriate if you want."

In the past, the city has required owners to pay a fee for every unit they want to remove from the city’s Single Room Accommodation Bylaw. The law has been in effect since 2003 and previously landlords had to pay $5,000 before the fine of sorts was raised to $15,000 in 2007.

Between 2004 and 2014, the city lost 1,752 private market SRO units, according to the Sun. More than half of the loss of SRO units was due to the purchase of more than 900 rooms in 13 hotels by BC Housing.

City staff said that investors wanting to convert more hotels to higher profit margins by renting to foreign students and people employed in service industries had increased pressure on low-income housing stock. Efforts to strengthen the rights of low-income Vancouverites have recently been ramped up.

But now that investors are increasingly looking to cheap hotels on the downtown east side, the city has raised the fees significantly, arguing that the increase better reflects today’s cost of building new SRO units.

"This says to the bad landlords, 'Look out. We're coming to get you, and if you are thinking of flipping those properties, you'd better think again because that is just not going to happen,' " said Vision Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang, in the Vancouver Sun.

"We'll make it so bloody difficult for you so it isn't going to work."

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