After nearly two months in the cold, Mark Enns finally has heat and hot water in his room at the Lion Hotel on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.
“Yeah, I can’t believe it,” he said.
Down the hall his neighbour Ronald Kuehlke is not so lucky. His room in the SRO has a blast of heat, but no hot water. “You end up with the choice of one or the other…either we get hot water or we get heat, we don’t get both at the same time,” Kuehlke said.
When Global News first exposed the conditions inside the notorious hotel last November, tenants had been freezing in their rooms for three weeks during a cold snap. The City of Vancouver ordered the landlord, Abol Abdollahi, to restore the heat and hot water immediately but by law that means within 60 days. At the time, Abdollahi admitted to Global News that the situation was unacceptable.
“But when the heater and boiler fail, what can I do? Fix it? I’m trying, I’m trying,” he said during a November 29th interview last year.
Since then the city has been battling its own Standards of Maintenance bylaw to get the heat back on, bound by the Vancouver Charter and required by law to give 60 days notice before it can take any action on privately-owned property.
WATCH: SRO Fight at DTES Hotel
It’s the frustrating reality for Mohammad Valayati with the SRO Collaborative. The housing advocate has been fighting for the Lion Hotel tenants.
Vancouver’s acting manager, Sadhu Johnston, noted in a staff memo from December 1, 2015 that the city’s hands are tied.
“The Law Department is looking into other possible means of forcing the owner to immediately remedy the situation as well as possible bylaw or Vancouver Charter amendments, which may help to alleviate this type of problem in the future,” he wrote.
“The fact that they would have to wait 60 days indicates that the province needs to be working hard with the city to make sure the city has the powers they need to go in and force those repairs to be made on an urgent basis,” NDP housing critic David Eby said.
Next Tuesday is the 60-day deadline for the landlord to comply and on Wednesday the city will inspect all 70 Lion Hotel rooms. If the order from last November is not met, the city can move in and do repairs at the landlord’s expense.
Meanwhile, some tenants are not optimistic the heat will stay on for long.
“I guarantee you as soon as the inspector’s gone, it’ll be off,” Enns said.