Outrage mounts over Vancouver SRO that’s been without heat for weeks

UPDATE: The City of Vancouver says heat and hot water have been fully restored to the Lion Hotel, but residents tell Global News parts of the building are still without heat.

The NDP and Pivot Legal Society say more needs to be done about an SRO on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside that’s been without heat and hot water for weeks.

“It’s totally unacceptable for people in British Columbia in 2015 to not have heat or hot water, considering the vast majority of the rent…will be paid by the province through disability payments or social assistance,” said NDP MLA David Eby.

Residents of the 70-room Lion Hotel at Powell and Gore say parts of the SRO had heat for weeks, and the landlord hasn’t done anything about it.

READ MORE: Parts of Vancouver SRO hotel haven’t had heat for three weeks

“I’m going to bed at night in my jacket and boots,” said David Napio, who has lived in the building for three years.

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“It’s serious sub-hotel standards. I can’t even imagine that any other hotel getting away with this, but these people seem to.”

The Lion Hotel is owned by a numbered company. But its director is Abol Abdollahi, manager of the Clifton Hotel – another building accused of engaging in renoviction tactics in 2014 and 2015.

READ MORE: Renoviction roller coaster for Vancouver man ends with Pyrrhic victory

In 2013, the Clifton was the second worst property on the city’s rental database with 105 violations; its tenants slowly kicked out for renovations.

Abdollahi showed up at the Lion Hotel today, telling Global News that our previous story was “all propaganda.”

“I’m not ready to talk. I’m not even here. We’re working on it, we’re working hard,” he said.

“The only thing I can see is propaganda. All propaganda. A few days, the heat is not here, it’s all on TV. They’ve got a heater for now. They’ve all got heaters. It’s all propaganda.”

However, Abdollahi did admit that the boiler was broken, and promised a new one would be installed.

“The lack of accountability for landlords under this program through the province is notorious, and this is the worst example of some of the terrible examples,” says Eby.

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“It’s really up to the province to step up, their failure to build social housing means that guys like this…are the only guys providing housing for people on welfare in the city.”

Last week the city ordered the hotel’s owner to restore the heat and hot water within 60 days, or it will move in and bill the owner, but there are concerns that’s too long during the winter.

“The city is saying their hands are tied, but the reality is their hands are tied by their very own bylaw. They have the power to amend that bylaw and to give themselves the power to act in the case of an emergency to shorten timelines and move in and fix the heat in this building before people’s lives are at risk,” says DJ Larkin, a lawyer with the Pivot Legal Society.

“We’re standing just blocks away from houses that are being sold for over a million dollars, and it’s outrageous to think there’s people living with no hot water and no heat. You can see around us there’s frost on the ground. It’s not acceptable in a city like Vancouver, and we have the capacity to fix it.”

– With files from Kristen Robinson

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