NEWS

DTES protesters hit West Vancouver

06/12/2012 02:39 EDT | Updated 08/12/2012 05:12 EDT

About a dozen protesters rallied in front of the West Vancouver home of the man bidding on two Downtown Eastside hotels, saying he plans to buy the buildings and hike rents.

The Downtown Eastside activists called it a family-friendly protest, setting up a mini tent city in the neighbourhood.

They say Steven Lippman's company is bidding on the Wonder and Palace hotels — two derelict hotels in the Downtown Eastside — but fear he will raise the rents if his bids are successful.

"There are no solutions that the province, the city or the feds are offering in order to replace these hotel rooms, and so we demand that Steven Lippman get out of the Downtown Eastside and that he not continue to make his fortune off the backs of the lowest income people in the city or the most vulnerable to homelessness," said protester Ivan Drury.

The buildings are both in receivership and a court could determine on Wednesday who will take ownership.

"So we need the city to step in and buy these two buildings or the province to step in buy these two buildings and protect them as low-income housing," Drury said.

'I am embarrassed

But Geoffrey Howes, a spokesperson for Lippman's company, said they clean up rat and bed bug infested properties.

"We essentially clean them up," he said. "Some of the things that I've seen — I am embarrassed for people like Ivan to defend people's ability to live that way."

Howes said the company raises rents by only a fraction.

"There's an adjustment — and it truly is a minor adjustment — in the rents, probably from $350 or $375 into the low $400 range, but they're clean, the city loves us."

Meanwhile, housing minister Rich Coleman says he won't be taking direction from the protesters, saying the group has opposed every housing initiative the government has taken.

"They don't support anything we've done and I wouldn't take any advice from them," he said.

"If we were going to look at any properties, which we could be doing at any given time, that would be done by BC Housing in confidence as they look at the real estate market and any needs that we have in any particular area of the community."

The minister won't say if he supports the purchase of the two hotels, saying any negotiations would be private.

The protesters plan to camp out until the court makes a decision on the sale of the properties.

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