A pair of Victoria businesses are claiming the province’s purchase of hotels in Victoria to house the homeless could destroy their livelihoods.
The province purchased Paul’s Motor Inn, a 75-room motel in Victoria, to temporarily house people without homes during the pandemic. Paul’s Diner by Foi Epi is currently leasing space in the hotel and has spent $150,000 in renovations in the last year.
Restaurant owner Clif Leir says the business is no longer viable and he will not be reimbursed for his costs. Leir says the only solution currently on the table is for him to walk away from the restaurant and the renovations.
There have been 20 jobs at the restaurant impacted and Leir’s other businesses could be forced to close due to the overall financial losses.
“Our opportunity to operate a viable business was taken away from us the minute the government became our landlords and it’s not fair that my staff and I should be made to suffer as a result of this decision,” Leir said.
“If the government doesn’t fix this and address our losses, we run the real risk of having to close our other locations, which will put another 35 local jobs and the families that depend on them at risk.”
B.C. Liberal MLA Todd Stone raised the issues during question period on Monday. Stone says the province should support transitional housing with supports but this is not the way to provide that aid.
What we’ve seen happen with the purchases of hotels by B.C. Housing here in Victoria is nothing more than a failure at every level,” Stone said.
“In the middle of a pandemic, when people are already struggling, John Horgan has put small businesses at risk of bankruptcy while killing local jobs.”
Housing Minister Selina Robinson said the province was required to take “quick action” to make sure there was a safe way to house the vulnerable population.
“The opportunity to purchase this hotel, among other hotels, is part of our government response to make sure that we have the opportunity to house people who desperately need it,” Robinson said.
In another case, B.C. Housing purchased the Victoria Comfort Inn Hotel. All About Hue Hair Design, who operated in the building, was provided an eviction notice. Most of the salon’s clients cancelled their appointments after learning about the hotel purchase.
Days after BC Housing began moving people into the hotel there was a fire in one of the rooms, which caused water damage to the salon and triggered further cancellations.
B.C. Housing is so far refusing to provide compensation for the damage.
“From the beginning, we got the impression that B.C. Housing didn’t even know there were other businesses located on the hotel property,” All About Hue Hair Design owner Lindsay Price said.
“A table was even set up at the entrance to the salon with condoms and needles and B.C. Housing has failed to offer our business or my staff any compensation. This has been the most unprofessional experience I’ve ever encountered in all my years in business.”