‘Replace with dignified housing’: Vancouver’s SROs need to be phased out, says B.C.’s premier

Click to play video: 'Province reviewing SRO system as run-down buildings age'
Province reviewing SRO system as run-down buildings age
WATCH: B.C. Premier David Eby says the province will review the SRO system, which provides housing for an estimated 7000 people in Vancouver, but even those who run some of those facilities say the current model isn't working well. Christa Dao reports – Jan 10, 2023

The B.C. government has committed to undertaking a review into how single-room-occupancy hotels or SROs are operated in the province.

An estimated 7,000 people live in Vancouver’s SROs in 156 buildings.

Many of the buildings are aging and in desperate need of repair and maintenance, and housing officials are calling for better oversight and management.

When asked about the issue on Monday, Premier David Eby said SROs are not “fit housing.”

“We need to have a plan for phasing out these SROs and replacing them with dignified housing and that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Eby said.

Eby said the lengthy process is not acceptable to British Columbians but it is going to take some time to make real change.

Click to play video: 'Vancouver SRO hotel resident complains of ‘unliveable’ conditions'
Vancouver SRO hotel resident complains of ‘unliveable’ conditions
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Global News cameras have captured the conditions inside some of the SROs in the city.

Joshua Coyne, who lives at the Sakura SO Residence at 376 Powell St. described the living conditions as “atrocious.”

“The bathrooms are in such a disgusting state, you wouldn’t even want your dog to use them, to be honest. It’s just gross,” he said.

That building is managed by the Lookout Society.

Shayne Williams, the CEO for the Lookout Society told Global News last week that those conditions were “absolutely deplorable.”

He said the bathrooms have now been cleaned up.

“Unfortunately, in these old buildings, you know, plumbing is a bit of a challenge,” Williams added. “You know, the amount of people using common bathrooms, it’s like you and I, whenever we’ve gone to a public washroom, they’re not always the cleanest of places. And it only takes one person before you to make it incredibly difficult.

“When you’re offering social housing and people are facing multiple barriers to their housing, sometimes the mess that you have or the person that has gone before you created a bit more challenge or a bit more of a problem than what you’d see in a regular public washroom.”

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Click to play video: 'Elevator in Vancouver SRO has been broken for months'
Elevator in Vancouver SRO has been broken for months

Aging infrastructure has caused similar problems at another SRO on Granville Street.

Justin Brown lives at the St. Helen’s Hotel and he said the elevator has been broken for nine months.

Brown struggles to walk without a cane and said travelling up and down flights of stairs every day is dangerous and painful.

The St. Helen’s Hotel is owned by the B.C. government through BC Housing and is operated by the Atira Women’s Society.

Janice Abbott, CEO of Atira Women’s Resource Society, told Global News that the part has been ordered to fix it. But due to the elevator’s age, the part had to be manufactured in Italy and it has only just arrived.

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In addition, this part may not fix the issue and the elevator may need to be replaced.

“Atria has done everything in its power to get this elevator fixed,” Abbott said. “Everything in its power.”

She said she would like to see a change in how these buildings are owned and operated.

“We all talk about the housing crisis, but I don’t see any action with respect or I see very little action with respect to the housing crisis,” Abbott said.

“And every year, every day, every month that we carry on like this is just another month, another day, another month, another year where not enough has been done. And the problem compounds.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. government to review SRO operations'
B.C. government to review SRO operations

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