City of Vancouver buys Ramada Inn with plans to use it for seniors housing

Steve Mertl
Daily BrewNovember 12, 2012

Vancouver and the B.C. government have a history of "repurposing" hotels but it's usually aimed at housing the homeless.

The Globe and Mail reports that Vancouver is planning to announce it's bought an hotel in the city's southeast and plans to convert it into housing for seniors.

City Coun. Kerry Jang confirmed to the Globe that Vancouver has acquired the 122-room Ramada Inn, which will be used for seniors moved from other Vancouver residences that need renovation.

The Ramada is located on Kingsway Ave., a busy six-lane thoroughfare, not far from suburban Burnaby. It's across the street from a Safeway supermarket and government liquor store, and not far from a SkyTrain rapid-transit station.

Jang told the Globe the city hasn't completed overall planning for the conversion but noted Vancouver has a policy of acquiring sites that can be used for future social housing.

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"The long-term plan is yet to be decided," Jang said. "One of the things we are preparing for is when the next provincial government gets elected, where are the new sites that can be used to build the next round of social housing."

The B.C. government is halfway through a program of building 14 major social-housing projects on city-supplied land, the Globe noted. They include former seedy hotel properties refurbished to house the homeless.

But there have been no recent announcements of new projects, the Globe said.

Jang would not say how much the city paid for the Ramada but a real estate agent told the Globe the property just showed up on industry databases as an Oct. 30 sale for $15.5 million.

The city has organized a meeting with a neighbourhood homeless committee for later this month to discuss its plans, the Globe said.

"What little I've heard back from the community about this has been positive so far," Jennifer Gray-Grant, committee executive director, told the Globe, adding affordable housing has been a neighbourhood priority for some time.

Jang said the purchase does not mean Vancouver is launching a program to buy more hotels for affordable housing. The city's Homeless Action Plan, begun in 2005, specified the city should aim to buy one residential hotel a year in order to preserve low-cost housing stock.

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But the plan was revamped two years later and the province began buying residential hotels, most of them run down, on the Downtown Eastside to keep them out of the hands of developers.

In Toronto, the University of Toronto acquired the Colony Hotel on Chestnut Street in 2004 and converted the 40-year-old highrise into the Chestnut Residence to house 1,050 students attending the nearby downtown campus.