toronto refugee hotel

Toronto might buy a hotel for refugees

The City of Toronto's shelter system has been bursting at the seams in recent years due, in part, to the fast-growing number of asylum seekers arriving in Canada.

Officials have gone to great lengths in an effort to accommodate both newcomers and other individuals experiencing homelessness in Toronto, including the temporary conversion of buildings like the Moss Park Armoury and Better Living Centre into 24/7 winter respite centres.

They've also been renting hotels in and around the city for refugees and homeless families.

These so-called "refugee hotels" were first proposed as a temporary solution to the shelter capacity problem, with Canada's federal government footing some of the bill until at least mid October.

Now, CBC News reports that the City of Toronto has made an offer buy one of these hotels: the Toronto Plaza Hotel near Pearson Airport (formerly the Days Hotel & Conference Centre), which appraisers say has a fair market value of at least $35 million.

A city spokesperson told the CBC that no decision has yet been made on whether Toronto should buy the Plaza, but documents and "information from people with direct knowledge of the situation" are said to indicate otherwise.

What is known for sure is that Toronto has already spent at least $4.5 million to house and feed those staying at the Plaza to date.

The 199-room hotel is being managed by a private contractor called Alternative Living Solutions Inc., and currently occupied by roughly 500 newly-arrived refugees and homeless families from the Fred Victor Centre.

The hotel's current owner, a company called Virk Hospitality, is renting rooms to the city at a discounted rate of about $50 a night plus food costs.

Fortunately, the city is on track to open 1,000 new shelter beds by 2020.

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