Slumlords quake in face of Stevenson’s legal offensive

Vancouver’s crackdown on slumlords, triggered by a motion from Vision councillor Tim Stevenson,  is producing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of upgrades in some of the city’s most notorious Downtown Eastside hotels.

Council learned today that the improvements cover more than 300 rooms or apartments in four buildings.

After years of inaction on the Standards of Maintenance bylaw, the Vision council demanded new legal strategies to force slumlords to clean up. 

The worst offenders were identified and warned that council would seek a court injunction forcing them to bring their properties up to code. Failure to comply could result in fines and contempt of court rulings.

Today council learned how effective the new strategy is proving:

  • 2200 Dundas, an eastside three-story walk-up housing 35 residents, made the news in 2008 when water flooded in from the roof and a balcony fell off. When promised repairs failed to materialize, council issued the injunction warning. The owner’s lawyer appeared to advise council that major repairs, including a new roof,  are imminent.
  • 222 Keefer St, 45 rooms, lacked proper fire doors and apartment doors. The injunction process began in May. The landlord has replaced all doors, frames and hardware to a high level of quality. The injunction application has been withdrawn.
  • The notorious Balmoral Hotel, 159 East Hastings, with 170 rooms,  is finally receiving a major overhaul. Hall floors have been sanded and refinished, hallways painted and long-overdue work on the elevator has been contracted. Work is 75 percent complete with “quality far above anything we have seen before,” according to city enforcement officer Barb Windsor.
  • 134 Powell, 54 rooms, was plagued by broken plumbing and many recurring violations. Within weeks of the city warning, the landlord finally took action and a building permit was issued July 22.

“The threat of injunction proceedings has worked well,” Windsor told council.

“We’ve been dealing with this for many years,” added Stevenson. “We’ve finally found a way to bring these properties into compliance.” The initiative delivers on a key campaign commitment by Mayor Gregor Robertson.