Downtown Eastside housing activists are concerned that property developer Steven Lippman is considering purchasing the Chelsea Hotel, a Single Room Occupancy hotel with 32 units.
If true, this would put at least 10 DTES hotels with 426 units under Lippman’s control, with rents ranging from $400 to $725, well above the $375 shelter allowance for single people on disability or income assistance.
Wendy Pedersen, a low-income housing activist, says Lippman’s general manager Geoffrey Howes was recently spotted at the Chelsea Hotel. The building’s owner would not confirm or deny Lippman’s interest to Pedersen, only saying he was considering selling the building.
Pedersen says renters at the Chelsea are worried because of Lippman’s reputation as a “renovictor”—a landlord who evicts tenants to renovate the rooms and increase rental rates.
“There’s maybe eight people left out of 22 units [at Thornton Park],” she said, adding the city has delayed renovation permits for the hotel. Even without permits, she believes renovictions are still happening.
The British Columbia Apartment Owners and Managers Association states on its website that “renoviction” is not a word. Landlords have the right to keep their buildings up to date, and sometimes that means evicting a tenant for large-scale renovations, like rewiring.
But tenants must be given notice of the renovations’ scale. Pedersen says tenants at the Thornton Park hotel were not given notice, citing one former tenant who returned from grocery shopping to find his belongings on the street.
A spokesperson for Lippman’s company, Living Balance, told The Globe and Mail they have no interest in purchasing the Chelsea Hotel. But Pedersen is calling on the city to purchase the Chelsea and other hotels, especially with retail potential on the first floor, to protect existing tenants.
“They need to buy the [hotels] that have retail potential before the renovictors get them,” she said. “Or refuse to give them a license to operate the retail.”