Close to 100 temporary supportive homes for people experiencing homelessness are in the works for Victoria’s Capital City Center Hotel.
The Province of BC purchased the hotel, at 1961 Douglas St., through BC Housing and plan to redevelop the site into affordable rental units over the long term.
Since April 2020, BC Housing has been leasing 83 of the hotel’s rooms for use as temporary homes for vulnerable people during the COVID-19 pandemic. With this purchase, BC Housing will convert 94 of the of the hotel's 96 rooms into temporary supportive units.
Current residents will remain in the building. The vacant units will be filled through BC Housing's Coordinated Access and Assessment (CAA) process, including people living outdoors at Beacon Hill Park. The remaining two units will be used for administrative purposes.
Our Place Society, an experienced non-profit operator, has been running the building since October 2020 and will continue to manage it as supportive housing. The society will provide residents with wraparound supports, including meal programs, life skills training and health and wellness services. The site will feature 24/7 staffing to provide security to residents of the building and the surrounding neighbourhood.
"The purchase of this hotel creates stable housing options now and opportunities for rental housing in the future that will serve people in Victoria for decades," said David Eby, attorney general and minister responsible for housing in a press release. "Because this hotel is now in public ownership, the almost 100 people who are safely housed with supports now can breathe a sigh of relief - they won't have to move at the end of the lease.”
Included in the purchase is the adjacent parking lot at 722 and 726 Discovery St. Over the long term, BC Housing plans to redevelop both the hotel and parking lot to create additional rental housing in the community. BC Housing will engage the community when it is ready to redevelop the two sites.
This purchase is part of the commitment between the province and the City of Victoria to move the more than 220 people living in encampments indoors. The province is investing approximately $25 million to purchase the hotel and adjacent lot.
In a statement, BC Housing said currently just under half of the current residents at the former Capital City Center Hotel have identified themselves as Indigenous.
“Specialized Indigenous outreach workers from several organizations are supporting people in the hotel, providing them with individualized support to meet their needs,” BC Housing said. “This includes members of Portland Hotel Society outreach, Victoria Native Friendship Centre (VFNC), staff from PEERS Indigenous outreach and the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness.”
On April 14, the building operator, Our Place Society, worked with PEERS to hold a cultural welcoming and drumming event for residents.
“In addition, Our Place Society and BC Housing have set up a meeting with the local Indigenous Health Network at the end of May,” said BC Housing. “Together, they will work to determine how best to continue to support Indigenous persons living in the hotel.”
BC Housing said the assessment process for new residents defines tenant support needs and outlines barriers to housing such as physical health issues, mental illness or addiction. The assessment includes the history of homelessness over the past several years, such as shelter or encampments, treatment or time in hospital or corrections.
“Indigenous applicants have been prioritized for this building through our local CAA process,” said BC Housing. “The other priority group includes individuals aged 55 and over experiencing homelessness and individuals experiencing long-term homelessness with high vulnerability.”
According to BC Housing, once settled, supported and stabilized in supportive housing, many people move out to independent subsidized units or market housing, while others stay in supportive homes as part of a long-term solution where they can continue to receive on-site staff support.
"I congratulate BC Housing for yet again stepping up to purchase and bring more supportive housing to the Greater Victoria region, something that has been chronically lacking for years,” said Julian Daly, CEO, Our Place Society in a press release. “We know this investment will pay dividends when it comes to giving some of our most vulnerable citizens a place of hope and belonging: a home."