Port Alberni council calls on province to buy and remediate Port Hotel

Port Alberni council calls on province to buy and remediate Port Hotel
The Port Hotel is boarded up as its future remains up in the air.

The future of the Port Hotel in Port Alberni is up in the air as council and staff disagree on whether the building should be demolished or renovated.

City staff recommended demolition but council says they’re hoping the province might step in and buy and remediate the building.

Meanwhile, one tenant is arguing the whole incident has been mishandled as a number of tenants don’t have new homes.

Security has been watching the Port Hotel around the clock to ensure no fire starts as the the building doesn’t have a working fire suppression system.

The windows and doors boarded up and no one living inside since the city told residents they had to vacate by May 29 due to unsafe living conditions, including airborne asbestos. There’s also a leak in the building’s roof.

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Port Alberni staff has recommended the Port Hotel be demolished.

“In this case, the cost of rehabilitating that building outweighs the cost of almost a new building,” said Mike Fox, City of Port Alberni’s chief administrative officer.

A staff report estimates the work required to bring the building up to an acceptable standard would cost close to $1 million, not including hazardous materials abatement.

One of the more than 25 people who lived in the building says he and many others are still upset by the amount of notice given.

“Without any wrongdoing by people living in that building we were just ejected from that building,” said Johnny Touchie.

Touchie, a First Nations elder, says only those on the social services list have been helped, which he wasn’t. He says a number of his things remain inaccessible in his former home where he was paying $400 per month for rent.

“With no where to live too I had to choose betweeen eating and getting a place to rent and there’s no place to rent. You know I can’t afford to rent a hotel,” said Touchie.

The city says it will ensure people will get their belongings from the building but it won’t be an easy issue. The city says the buildings owners haven’t communicated with the city. The city’s costs now sitting at $200,000 and mounting. The city says usually building owners are proactive in maintaining their buildings.

“It is unusual to have this circumstance for sure,” said Fox.

Port Alberni council voted to postpone the demolition and instead urgently ask BC Housing to purchase the building and remediate it.

The city’s mayor says she doesn’t want to see affordable housing stock lost if possible when new buildings take the province years to build.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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