Tenants of Vancouver apartment building blame ‘negligence’ for broken elevator

Tenants of 251 Union Street in Vancouver's Chinatown protest their landlords over a broken elevator they say has been out of service for months, and won't be fixed for nearly a year. Cody Chaban/Global News

Tenants of a low-income rental apartment building in Vancouver’s Chinatown are frustrated after being told their broken elevator won’t be fixed for nearly a year.

The elevator, which is the only one that services all nine storeys in the building at 251 Union St., has already been out of commission since late September, residents said at a protest Saturday demanding action from owners S.U.C.C.E.S.S.

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In a building filled with elderly tenants and people with mobility issues, longtime residents said the breakdown has become a safety concern.

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“People can’t leave their floors,” Lisa Thys said. “There’s been a few people that have taken the stairs that have fallen and badly gotten hurt. That’s very unacceptable.”

Making matters worse, tenants say the other elevator, which services the first five floors only, has also broken down for hours at a time.

Julio Cesar, who has lived in the building for nearly 25 years, says repeated calls for help have been practically ignored by staff.

READ MORE: Residents in 7-storey Vancouver SRO say they had no working elevator for over a week

“We still want to live here,” he said. “But no one is listening to us. We need a faster solution, and we need answers.”

The Solheim Place building was opened in 1992 with support from BC Housing and includes 86 units, some of them modified to suit tenants’ physical conditions, according to S.U.C.C.E.S.S.’s website.

Queenie Choo, S.U.C.C.E.S.S.’s CEO, told Global News the building’s age is responsible for the delay in fixing the elevator, and that workers are figuring out a safe, temporary solution to get it up and running while they wait for a full replacement.

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“We are as anxious as the tenants to get it fixed,” Choo said. “It’s certainly not our intention to present any barriers to people to reach their apartments.”

Choo added the 11-month timetable tenants say they were given by S.U.C.C.E.S.S. staff is a “worst-case scenario.”

In the meantime, she said staff have had their hours extended to 11 p.m. each day to help tenants up and down the stairs, and S.U.C.C.E.S.S. is working with BC Housing to relocate affected tenants into suites on lower floors.

But Thys said many tenants have found staff to be unhelpful, with some ignoring their requests.

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“At the best of times, staff, when they are here, don’t want to go and help tenants out when they’re asked,” she said. “They keep saying, ‘We’re working on it, we’re working on it.’ But we haven’t seen that.”

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She also alleged the management has told tenants they don’t have enough money for a complete fix, despite assuring them at a meeting two months ago money “wasn’t an issue.”

“At the meeting this past week, the story changed, and they said they don’t have money to compensate the tenants or fix the elevators, which does not make sense,” Thys said.

S.U.C.C.E.S.S. said in a statement they secured funding from BC Housing on Friday to provide financial compensation to all tenants, which will be discussed at a meeting this coming week.

—With files from Robyn Crawford

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