Bittancourt Project Update
March 14 will mark one year since Lady Minto Hospital Foundation (LMHF) bought the Seabreeze Inne to convert the 29 room motel into 17 apartment units for hospital-staff housing.
In recent months, we have held off providing an update on the project in the hope that we could soon announce a timeline for renovations or a construction kickoff date. As a charitable organization accountable to this community, we feel an obligation to provide a long-overdue update and offer as much transparency as possible at this time.
Lack of accommodation continues to be a key factor in the hospital’s challenges with recruitment and retention of staff, and that is threatening the operations of Lady Minto Hospital. With nearly half of island residents without a family physician, the ER is the de-facto walk-in clinic for many, and therefore, threats to the hospital threaten access to basic, on-island, healthcare for all island residents. Our purchase of the Inne at 101 Bittancourt was intended to be a direct response to this threat, bringing units for hospital staff online within the year.
Prior to our purchase, the Seabreeze temporarily housed a number of people as part of a wider provincial policy of ensuring that citizens in need had secure and safe shelter options. When buying the building, we chose not to demand vacant occupancy (meaning that the building is vacant when the new owner takes possession). We did this not out of a lack of awareness, but instead because LMHF works for improved health outcomes for our community, and so we felt a duty to support the best health outcomes for the occupants. We agreed to a short-term lease with BC Housing, so we could generate revenue to help fund the renovations while we sought our permits, and to provide time for BC Housing to find alternative housing for the remaining occupants.
After it became clear that BC Housing’s project at Drake Road would be delayed, we negotiated one extension to this lease, which ended on July 15, 2022. In the meantime, BC Housing completed its temporary housing project at Kings Lane, which still to this day holds vacant enough units for each of the occupants remaining at the Seabreeze, offering free meals, free phone and free internet access and providing supportive services if required.
Despite this, a handful of occupants remain at the motel, opting to remain on site. As a result, our Bittancourt Staff Housing project is now in danger, both from fast-approaching grant deadlines and from the threat of ever-escalating construction and materials costs. In order to seek a resolution, last year LMHF sought legal advice on our options for getting the building vacated. To that end, we have a court date of March 20, where we hope to have the matter decided so that we can move forward. In the intervening time, we are also working to try to find a solution agreeable to all parties in the matter so we can come to a resolution even sooner, and get this project back on track.
We look forward to being able to offer more news soon. To get the latest updates on this project as well as other news from Lady Minto Hospital Foundation, please sign up for our newsletter.