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TikTok showing $2K/200-sq. ft. rental meant to show ‘crazy’ Vancouver market, creator says

Click to play video: 'Pricey but small Vancouver SRA stirring up Canada’s opposition leaders'
Pricey but small Vancouver SRA stirring up Canada’s opposition leaders
A TikTok video featuring a tiny but pricey rental unit in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside is getting attention from the country's opposition leaders and sparking a bigger conversation about the overall housing crisis. Kristen Robinson reports – Aug 23, 2023

The woman behind a TikTok video advertising a 200 square-foot micro-unit leasing for $2,000 a month at the Lotus Hotel on the edge of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside said she decided to delete her original post after it stirred up controversy online.

Real estate marketer Kristin Gill said she produced the 40-second video to make a point about the city’s housing crisis.

“I wanted to show what the rental market has come to in Vancouver in a way that would catch people’s attention,” said the co-founder of reAngle. “Because it’s pretty crazy.”

Click to play video: 'Former SRO turns into $2K/month rental thanks to Tik Tok video'
Former SRO turns into $2K/month rental thanks to Tik Tok video

Gill told Global News she was not hired to make the video, nor paid for it, but her company felt the footage was getting misappropriated by other companies and political parties – so they took it down.

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“I kind of felt a little bit out of control that it was in other people’s hands,” Gill said.

The post blew up on social media with NDP leader Jagmeet Singh accusing the Conservatives and Liberals of letting rich investors use housing as a get-rich quick scheme.

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Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre tweeted in response: “Your party runs BC where this apartment is located. Since you took power in Ottawa, housing costs have rocketed higher.”

“I think it really illustrates the severity of the housing crisis that were in,” said ABC Vancouver City Coun. Peter Meiszner.

The Lotus Hotel single room accommodation (SRA) property was purchased by a Toronto real estate investment firm in 2021.

Forum Asset Management said more than 70 per cent of the SRA units were already renovated when it bought the building, while historic tenants in the remaining suites are being offered buyouts.

Click to play video: 'Unaffordable Vancouver Rentals'
Unaffordable Vancouver Rentals

Five long-term tenants have accepted compensation and Forum told Global News it “will continue to work with tenants that are open to a mutual arrangement to vacate in order to modernize units and the building, but only if they confirm they have secured alternative housing.”

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Vancouver city council adopted vacancy control regulations in 2021 that were intended to slow speculative investment and rapidly rising rents in SRA buildings, as well as prevent “renovictions” and tenant displacement by limiting rent increases between tenancies to the rate of inflation.

The amendments to the city’s License Bylaw were struck down by the BC Supreme Court on Aug. 3, 2022, and are not enforceable.

“The city is doing everything it can by appealing that decision,” Meiszner told Global News.

B.C. Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon was not available for an interview, but sent a statement confirming the Lotus Hotel property owner was issued a warning in 2022 that the Residential Tenancy Act must be followed “regarding mutual agreements to end tenancy and the right of tenants to quiet enjoyment.”

Click to play video: 'Vancouver’s rental prices hit new record'
Vancouver’s rental prices hit new record

The warning came after an investigation by the Compliance and Enforcement Unit (CEU) of the Residential Tenancy Branch, which “is aware of recent latest allegations and has started initial inquiries to determine if a new investigation will be commenced,” reads the statement.

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The City of Vancouver also said a stop work order was recently issued to the Lotus Hotel building owner after staff were made aware of work being done in multiple units with no building permits.

Kahlon’s statement did not directly answer questions about what the provincial government will do to lower the cost of housing and assist low-income people who are forced out of their homes by corporations. Instead, it said the government is determined to make sure British Columbians have access to an affordable place to live.

“We’re making the largest investment in housing in B.C.’s history and working with partners to deliver 114,000 affordable homes over 10 years,” read the housing minister’s statement.

“We need to continue to work with senior levels of government to get more investment into rental housing across Vancouver and also cut permitting timelines and red tape in order to deliver the housing more cost-effectively,” said Meiszner.

Earlier this month, online rental unit website Rentals.ca reported the average monthly price for a one-bedroom apartment in Vancouver had surpassed $3,000 per month.

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