In February 2017, the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation purchased the May Wah Hotel based on the vision to provide affordable housing in Chinatown and preserve the neighbourhood’s cultural heritage. The Foundation manages the operations of the May Wah Hotel and is making upgrades to ensure the longevity of the building and to create more comfortable living conditions for current and future residents.
The purchase of the May Wah has helped retain these much-needed welfare housing units and it also preserves an important piece of the city’s history. The May Wah Hotel was built in 1913 to provide affordable housing for low-income labourers. With four floors and over 100 units, the building is the largest single-room occupancy (SRO) in Chinatown today.
The facilities team meets weekly to ensure that adequate resources are being allocated to the May Wah Hotel. In addition to ensuring a safe home for the residents, a programming subcommittee was assembled in April 2018 to provide activities and events for the residents to participate in.
Originally named The Loyal Hotel, the layout and rooms of the hotel plan harks back to Chinatown’s Bachelor Society. Because of the high cost of passage and head tax, many married Chinese workers had to leave their wives and families in China and lived alone in Vancouver. This separation was later amplified by the Chinese Exclusions Act.
Designed by Vancouver architect William Frederick Gardiner in a Neo-classical style, the Hotel is known for its use by different family associations in Chinatown, namely the Chau Luen Society and the Shon Yee Benevolent Association. In 1950, the Le-Kiu company owners Alex and Victor Louie--grandsons of the Chinese-Canadian entrepreneur HY Louie--purchased the building in 1950, adding another layer to the May Wah Hotel’s historical significance.
Bill Lau (Chair), Bruce Cheng, Beng Gunn, Julie Ho, Maggie Ip, Carol Lee, Janine Pan, and Allen Wong