The SRO Collaborative was established to organize SRO tenants in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and Chinatown. SROs are typically small single rooms about 10×10 feet with a shared bathroom on each floor and typically without a shared kitchen. They were built at the turn of the 20th century for seasonal workers in the resource industry and over time became the last stop before homelessness. There are 87 privately-owned SROs that are open in Vancouver today that rent at about $600/month or less. They are known to be aging, decrepit, infamously lawless and inhabitable places to live with poor maintenance and numerous health and safety code violations. In addition to these 87 hotels, a few dozen hotels were “renovicted” and in some cases, rents rose to $1500/month for a single room in these “boutique” hotels. A few more dozen hotels were purchased by governments, renovated and operated as deeply subsidized supportive housing by housing non-profit agencies.
The SRO-C was established in 2015 as a pilot project that focused on setting up tenant committees and organizing for repairs in 5 privately-owned SROs which included the high profile cases where tenants won major improvements at the West and Lion Hotels and evacuation/relocation to better housing at the Regent and Balmoral Hotels. In 2017, SRO-C formed its own society and began organizing networks of SRO tenants for overdose prevention in the privately-owned SROs. In 2018, SRO tenants joined with academics from Queens and Simon Fraser Universities to research the past, present and future of SROs and to stimulate a new phase of organizing in the hotels. In 2019, SROC is working on a plan to present to the three levels of government to get renovations, rent control, better management practices and tenant committees in all privately-owned SROs.