The B.C. Hotel Boom has Surrey Soaring to Unaffordable Heights

The forthcoming Civic Hotel is a 52-storey reminder of the high living cost of our city
Ashley Hyshka, Community Reporter

Still under construction, Surrey’s Civic Hotel is going to become a multifaceted property with 144 guest rooms, conference and meeting centers, and will be home to KPU’s newest five storey campus. (Ashley Hyshka)

Rising 52 storeys high in Surrey Central, the $200 million Civic Plaza Hotel is aiming to be the newest crown jewel of the province.

And so are the other 20 hotels slated for construction across British Columbia.

Having lived in Richmond and Downtown Vancouver for two years, I’ve witnessed the never-ending construction of high-rise properties. Sometimes I find it hard to find fault with the demand—people want to move into Greater Vancouver, so these skyscrapers are critical in maximizing space and population density.

But what about people who are still on the ground floor of their low-rise apartment building?

Their homes are at the mercy of developers who want to tear down those complexes to build condos, and aside from unaffordable housing, there is an utter lack of available units in the city.

Springing up like weeds, these condos are always in demand and under construction. A recent article in The Vancouver Sun reported the average monthly cost of rent in Vancouver is $1,950. Meanwhile, minimum wage will only increase to $11.35 this September.

And then there’s KPU. The university is renting out the bottom five floors of the Civic Hotel, and KPU’s website says that the campus will host a variety of departments and faculties as well as eight teaching classrooms, two collaboration classrooms, two lecture classrooms, one distance learning classroom, and 18 meeting rooms.

Instead of spending money on building affordable student dormitories or expanding the existing campuses, KPU Surrey, Richmond, Langley, and Cloverdale are left behind because the new KPU Civic Plaza is not a university, but a hotel and office tower, and a very expensive one.

Earlier in my life, I worked at a Marriott hotel, which radiates luxury, class, and extravagance. Being a front desk agent for such a prestigious property filled me with glee because I got to represent a renowned hotel chain.

But as a student I’ve also struggled financially, living paycheque to paycheque, or counting down the days until I received my student loan. Having lived in both worlds, it has become clear to me that sometimes you must take a step back and put that new luxury item you’ve been dreaming about purchasing (or a multi-million dollar hotel, in this case) on the backburner and address your priorities.

The construction of the Civic Hotel only perpetuates the social and economic divide felt across Greater Vancouver. The new, extravagant property will no doubt cater to upper and upper-middle class individuals.

The most luxurious skyscrapers in Downtown Vancouver are mere kilometers from the Downtown Eastside, the site of mass homelessness largely, and now Surrey has followed suit. The extravagant Civic Hotel is also in the backyard of 135A Street, home of one of Surrey’s biggest tent cities.

Surely, the Civic Hotel is a gorgeous property, and it undoubtedly made someone very wealthy. But while hotels, condos, and other commercial properties are constantly in development, citizens of Greater Vancouver are left in the dark when it comes to affording their own accommodations. Money is always available when it comes to funding these expensive projects, but when it’s a struggling family who can’t afford monthly rent, or are facing eviction, we are at a standstill to help them.

Why? Because there is no money in helping the poor.

Just because you can build it, doesn’t mean that you should. Remember not to forget about all the people who remain on the ground floor.