TORONTO - A North York hotel is defending a decision to squeeze out some local long-term occupants to make room for Syrian refugees.
About 15 rooms at the Toronto Plaza Hotel are being rented out on a weekly or monthly basis to people “in transition,” assistant general manager Ahmed Ibrahim says. But with the large influx of refugees in recent weeks, COSTI — the agency charged with resettling them — has booked the entire 200-room hotel.
Ibrahim defended the move to ask long-term guests to leave.
“For us, you know, it’s a business,” he said Tuesday. “(COSTI) guaranteed they were going to take the rooms.”
Ibrahim said the hotel, located on Wilson Ave. near Jane St., has faced challenging times in recent years. A two- to three-star accommodation, the Plaza has had to drop its rates from $109 a night in 2001 to $79 in 2016 to increase business. And with a $30,000 monthly property tax bill and around $45,000 in hydro a month, the hotel has to go with clients that offer guaranteed business, he said.
“Three months sold-out is a great help to the hotel,” he added. “We lay off so many people in the winter. Now, we’ve hired more people. This has never happened before in the winter time.”
Ibrahim said they have been notifying guests as their 30-day terms expire. They are offering them extra days to find another hotel, but they can’t accommodate them for an additional 30 days.
He said the hotel isn’t a suitable home for refugees or anyone else. And the hotel doesn’t work like an apartment rental with long-term leases.
“You don’t have a kitchen, you don’t have anything,” he said. “How are you going to stay here longer term? ... It’s not meant to be long-term.”
COSTI could not comment Tuesday, but in an interview with the Toronto Sun in early January, executive director Mario Calla was asked if any Plaza guests were being displaced in favour of refugees.
At the time, COSTI had only booked 100 rooms and he didn’t believe that to be the case.
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