It welcomed its first guests nearly 50 years ago, but Paul’s Motor Inn on Victoria’s Douglas Street has now been bought by the B.C. government to become temporary supportive housing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
There are also long-term plans to redevelop the site to create a mixture of affordable housing in consultation with the community.
“We know there’s a need of affordable housing along the spectrum so we’re excited about the redevelopment opportunity,” said Heidi Hartman, BC Housing’s Regional Director of Operations for Vancouver Island.
About 35 homeless people from two tent cities, one on Pandora Avenue and one in Topaz Park, moved into Paul’s as an emergency measure early on in the pandemic but this will provide space for another 40.
“We have a few sites like the arena that are emergency response centres that are more time-limited, so we would potentially look to those opportunities to transition those individuals into this more permanent solution,” said Hartman.
Victoria Transmission and Auto Care, which is across the street from Paul’s Motor Inn, told CHEK News that they’ve seen an increase in property crime since the first group of homeless people moved in and they worry what the sale of the building will mean for their future.
At BC Housing’s other recently purchased hotel, the Comfort Inn, a fire Tuesday was contained to a single unit but several others were damaged by water. It was the second fire in the last few weeks.
BC Housing insists non-profit service providers and Island Health will ensure the proper supports are in place to make sure both buildings run smoothly. Community advisory committees will also be set up to make sure any concerns of the surrounding businesses and neighbours are heard and addressed.
“We’re very keen to be good neighbours, we’re very proactive,” said Hartman.
After facing challenges with the tent city on Pandora Avenue, the Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA) says it’s happy to see more permanent, supportive housing being offered.
“I think this is a step in the right direction in terms of helping those individuals and also at a time when we really need to support our small local businesses and our downtown economy this is good news for downtown as well,” said DVBA Executive Director Jeff Bray.
BC Housing says there are just under 20 employees currently work at the motel, and they’ve been offered to stay on with the facility in the short-term.
The owner of Paul’s Diner by Fol Epi says he isn’t sure what the sale means for the restaurant’s future but BC Housing says it hopes the iconic diner stays on site.
The Copper Owl bar, which was situated on top of the diner, closed permanently in January.
A non-profit operator for the facility will be announced within the next week.
The manager of Paul’s Motor Inn declined to comment on the sale.