Seabreeze update: LMHF seeks injunction
As many in our community know, the Foundation is currently involved in a legal process to seek vacant occupancy of our building at 101 Bittancourt—the site of the former Seabreeze Inne—through the courts. We find ourselves having to resort to this measure despite an indemnification from BC Housing, and a promise from David Eby (when he was A.G. and Minister Responsible for Housing), that his office would take charge of this file and resolve it.
Our three-day hearing in Supreme Court that was scheduled for the week of March 20th was postponed for lack of a Judge. The earliest it may now be heard is November, given lack of availability of opposing Counsel. That would mean, at the earliest, a verdict returned in the Spring of 2024, and if we are successful, and no appeal is filed, the earliest renovation start date would be Summer 2024. By that time, we would have lost our 2 million dollar grant, and our construction management team. Moreover, the new Emergency Department will have been opened without the available housing support necessary to recruit and retain staff.
Because of this, LMHF applied for an emergency injunction which was heard in Supreme Court in early May. While an injunction does not determine the legal issues at hand, it seeks to have the occupants removed in order to mitigate the ongoing damages. The justice reserved his decision, which we hope he returns in support of our application within the next few weeks.
You might wonder why this situation is not being resolved through the Residential Tenancy Branch. While that certainly sounds reasonable, only two of the initial 22 occupants have ever filed RTB claims, and clearly the RTB can’t make findings on occupants from whom they’ve never heard. We aren’t able to seek a determination through the RTB because LMHF, while owners of the building, we don’t have standing to do so unless we agree that we are the occupants’ landlord as the tribunal is only able to resolve disputes between parties which are defined as landlord/tenant.
The combination of these factors means that the Supreme Court is the appropriate venue at which LMHF needs to seek vacant occupancy. Additionally, last month, we had a hearing at the RTB, the outcome of which was that the RTB adjudicator declined jurisdiction – as both LMHF and lawyers for the occupants acknowledged was the law, and requested. In part, they have no discretion to hear cases where damages exceed $35,000 as in this case, or where parties who are not potential tenants are involved. It’s no overstatement to say that this case is legally complex, and will no doubt take time to resolve. In the intervening time, we hope that the granting of an injunction could allow us to move forward with creating badly-needed units of hospital staff housing.