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by Downtown Eastside Neighborhood Council


For Immediate Release
June 30, 2011

Contact: Ivan Drury 604-781-7346
Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council


On Thursday a delegation of residents from the Palace and Wonder
hotels, with supporters from other hotels, the Vancouver Area Network
of Drug Users (VANDU), and the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council
(DNC) will be going to city hall to support the injunction and ask for
justice for hotel residents who have suffered in the buildings of the
slumlords. Join us and help make an example of Wosley and Robinson
that other hotel owners will pay attention to, and that other hotel
residents will hear as hope:

(meet 1pm at Carnegie Centre, 2nd floor to go up as a group. Lunch and
transportation provided)

This delegation will travel up to city hall to ask the city:

1) Level maximum fines against the owners for the violations in the
Palace and Wonder hotels. If the owners can't pay then the city can
claim the buildings and renovate the buildings for low-income
residents or use the land for new self-contained social housing at
welfare rates. The money from the fines can be used to compensate
residents for the physical and psychological danger and damages they
have suffered from living under these conditions, and to pay for the
replacement of all their belongings that have been destroyed by pest
infestation and other hazards.

2) Fix the life safety issues in the buildings immediately and bill
the owners. The life-safety issues pose a health and safety risk to
surrounding building tenants as well and it is the city's
responsibility to ensure they are immediately fixed. Because Wosley
has a long history of not complying with city orders, or with court
orders in previous cases, the city should take over the full
renovation and management of the buildings and charge Wosley and
Robinson for the costs.

3) Strike a special SRO residents' civil rights task force to assist
current residents with getting into decent housing either temporarily,
while the buildings are cleaned up because the clean-up conditions are
also hazardous, or permanently if they want. They should also be
helped with the actual physical moving. But it would be naive to think
that if would be enough to strike a task force that ends with the
placing of Wonder and Palace hotel residents in other hotels. The main
lesson of the crisis of safe and healthy conditions in the Wonder and
Palace hotels is that they are systemic problems, not because of a
single hotel owner. We want the city to create a task force that is
empowered to work with hotel residents throughout the Downtown
Eastside to identify and defend their rights as tenants: From the
Wonder Rooms to the Regent Hotel (which, as you read this, is being
swarmed with rats from the Pantages demolition), the city should
strike a tenants task force to fix up spaces that need renovation and
to house people who are in places that can't be safely renovated.

4) Buy 10 sites a year for social housing in the Downtown Eastside for
five years to replace all 5,000 units of SRO hotels. These hotels are
ultimately not fixable to city (or human!) standards. Following
standards of maintenance can help reduce pest infestations, improve
fire prevention, and improve the health of tenants. But by-laws cannot
increase the size of 10'X10' hotel rooms, add washrooms or kitchens to
make spaces self-contained, earthquake or fire proof these old
buildings, or fix or add elevators. The hotels must be replaced with
social housing at welfare, disability and pension shelter rates for
all hotel residents.


On Wednesday June 28th the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council and
Pivot Legal society, on behalf of the residents of the Wonder Rooms
and Palace hotel, launched a joint lawsuit against the owners of the
Wonder and Palace hotels for tenant justice.

Read the media roundup about the press conference:

Yolande Cole, "Lawsuit launched against Downtown Eastside building
owners." Georgia Straight, June 29, 2011

Aarti Pole, "Vancouver may force DTES landlord to act." CBC News, June 29,

Susan Lazaruk, "DTES landlords face legal action over buildings'
condition." The Province, June 29, 2011

Stephanie Ip, "DTES residents sue over poor living conditions." 24
Hours News, June 29, 2011

Bethany Lindsay, "Downtown Eastsiders sue landlords at derelict
hotels." CTV BC News, June 29, 2011

Tristan Markle, "Renewed urgency to improve DTES housing conditions."
The Mainlander, June 29, 2011

--- --- --- ---

According to Vancouver's standards of maintenance by-law the city can
charge Wolsey and Robinson $2,000 per violation and every day that
passes without correcting a violation constitutes a new violation. The
Wonder Rooms has been ticketed with 24 violations of the city's
Building By-law and 141 infractions under the Standards of Maintenance
by-law, including three "life-safety concerns" that have not been
corrected over more than a year of city issued reports and repair
order. Not counting violations beyond the last year, the extra fines
for life-threatening conditions, or any of the violations at the
Palace Hotel, which is just as bad as the Wonder Rooms, the city can
fine the owners for more than a hundred million dollars. Even with the
minimum fine for each offence the total fine would be over twelve
million dollars.

The city enforces tickets against the street vendors in the Downtown
Eastside. They don't ask if the vendors can pay the tickets or not.
And they put vendors in jail if they can't pay. The delegation of
hotel residents and supporters going to city hall are calling on
council to these owners the same as they treat street vendors who get
by-law violation tickets: Enforce the laws that regulate building
conditions in SRO hotels.

Although many of the residents hope to move out of the Palace and
Wonder hotels, they are afraid of being evicted. George Wolsey has a
record of harassing, intimidating, and illegally evicting tenants who
speak out for their rights. Pivot Legal, which has an ongoing lawsuit
pending against Wolsey from an earlier struggle, has agreed to
represent any Palace or Wonder tenant who is harassed or threatened by
the owners. Tenants should call the 24 hour emergency support line to
fight against owner or management intimidation: 604-781-7346 (Ivan)

The worst  conditions in the worst hotels affect the most oppressed
people in the DTES the most severely. Women are compelled by concerns
for their physical safety by "double-bunking" with men in room that
are already too small and squalid for one. This distinct form of
women's homelessness puts women in danger of experiencing sexual and
gendered violence. IV drug users and people stigmatized by mental
health institutions are denied decent housing because of
discrimination by property managers, landlords, and BC Housing and are
restricted to the most decrepit and unsafe hotels. Non-status people
do not qualify for social housing and are condemned to living in
hotels like Wonder Rooms and the Palace in order to live beneath the
radar of racist police and deportation departments. Indigenous people,
continuously displaced by colonialism and squeezed by racist housing
discrimination are forced to accept lousy housing or no housing, a
fact that shows up in the disproportionately high rates of
homelessness of Indigenous people.

The Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council is also discussing some
mid-term approaches with city departments to better track and enforce
standards of maintenance and SRA by-law infractions. So far the
discussions about these interim approaches, to improve the conditions
in the hotels as much as possible until they are replaced, have been
heard pretty openly by city personnel.

First, we are meeting with the city privacy department and calling for
inspections reports to be made public as they are written. If the
results of city inspectors' reports and orders were made available to
hotel residents, their organizations, and the Vancouver public at
large, pressure could have been brought against the owners to fix and
upkeep their buildings and residents could be better informed about
building before they move in. It is in the public interest to make
inspections reports public.

Second, the DNC is discussing with the city planning department that
city council should fund an independent SRO conditions enforcement
group to relay between the inspections department and tenants and to
pressure owners to fix and upkeep their hotels for the benefit of
existing tenants. Property inspectors' difficulty in enforcing the
Standards of Maintenance and SRA bylaws do not begin with enforcement.
There are significant gaps between residents and the inspectors.
Residents do not know who to call for an inspection, do not know what
their rights are, and are afraid to take action against their
landlords because of fear of eviction and other reprisals. An
independent enforcement group would greatly increase the use and
effectiveness of the Standards of Maintenance and SRA bylaws on each
end: reporting, and enforcing.

The lawsuit that DNC and Pivot are launching, in partnership with the
residents of the Wonder and Palace hotels, should be over and above
the actions that the city can take to make an example of the owners of
these hotels. DNC and Pivot, in partnership with the residents of the
Wonder and Palace hotels, are also initiating a class-action lawsuit
at the Residential Tenancy Office against the owners of the hotels.
This lawsuit will seek to recognize the psychological and physical
damages that SRO hotel tenants have suffered and seek compensation for
it. This lawsuit should be over and above the actions that the city
can take to make an example of the owners of these hotels.

Housing discrimination and the deplorable conditions in many of the
market SRO hotels impacts the lives and safety of the most vulnerable
people in the city. The city must fund an emergency SRO Hotel civil
rights task force and a community conditions enforcement program to
uphold and enforce the Standards of Maintenance, SRA, and Buildings
bylaws while they dually prioritize buying and designating properties
for social housing and lobbying senior government for social housing
construction. Opening their processes, including their inspections
reports, to hotel residents and their organizations and funding an
independent enforcement organization will help improve the conditions
in the hotels by increasing the pressure on negligent landlords. The
city also must send a sharp message to such hotel owners by
prosecuting the owner of the Palace and Wonder hotels with jail time
and hefty fines to compensate residents for physical dangers and
psychological and emotional stresses of living in rotting buildings.
The city needs to take control over the renovation of the hotels at
the owners' expense for the benefit of the existing tenants.

Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council
*24 hour emergency support line for tenants threatened by owners or
management at the Palace or Wonder hotels: 604-781-7346

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