Amid a housing crunch in St. John’s, the Super 8 is flipping from hotel rooms to apartments

A hotel building front entrance.
Renovations are underway at the Super 8 hotel in St. John’s that will turn it into an apartment building by the end of the year. (John Gushue/CBC)

When the new year rolls in, the Super 8 hotel in St. John’s will cease to be a place where weary travellers lay their heads for the night and will instead become an apartment complex.

Located at 175 Higgins Line, off the Trans-Canada Highway, the hotel’s new name will be Latitude Living.

Tom Casey, co-president of the Nova Scotia-based Holloway Lodging Corporation — which operates a number of franchises of the American Super 8 chain in its Canadian portfolio — said the company has been considering converting some of its units to residential housing for some time.

“This was our first implementation,” said Casey in an email to CBC News. “We are still a hotel as of today but by December 31, 2023, we will have the renovations completed and conversion to residential will be complete.”

A blonde person wearing red lipstick and a red blouse poses for a picture.
Hope Jamieson, a St. John’s affordable housing researcher and consultant, says it’s good that more housing is being added to the market but the rent will be too high for many people. (Garrett Barry/CBC)

Casey said the St. John’s housing crisis was a consideration in the company’s decision to convert the hotel rooms to apartments.

“St. John’s, like so many cities in Canada, is in dire need of additional housing, and we are very pleased to be able to bring this unique offering to the market,” he said in the email.

There will be 82 units, he said, made up of one-bedroom and studio apartments. Some of the units have already been renovated and are already being rented. The lowest rent will be $1,500 a month, he said, for fully furnished units with complementary Wi-Fi and cable, as well as water, heat and electricity. 

Weighing in on housing

Hope Jamieson, a St. John’s affordable housing researcher and consultant, said anything being added to the rental market is good news but the $1,500 rent doesn’t put the units within easy reach of people who need affordable housing.

“For folks who can afford it, this is great. But there are still lots of people who are not going to have their needs met by this kind of development,” they said.

A simple one-room apartment with a kitchen along the wall, couch and then bed.
The units will be fully furnished with amenities like microwaves, fridges and dishwashers. Housekeeping service will also be available. (Submitted by Tom Casey)

A recent report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that low-wage earners are struggling to afford housing while working full time for minimum wage, under the guideline of spending less than 30 per cent of income on housing.

Someone in Newfoundland and Labrador working full time for minimum wage makes about $30,000 a year, said Jamieson. Given that income, they said, monthly rent should be around $750 but the average renter pays about $900.

From guest to renter

Super 8 is just the latest hotel in St. John’s to flip its rooms into apartments in recent years.

In October 2020, HomePort announced it was closing its hotels on Wadland Crescent and converted them into apartments. Around the same time, its parent company Northview Apartment REIT was being sold.

In a statement at the time, the company said it made the decision in part because of the economic impact of the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, when fewer people were booking its rooms.

Destination St. John’s CEO Cathy Duke said the loss of the Super 8 won’t make a dent in the city’s ability to host tourists. Tourists are returning to the province, she added, and there are plenty of hotels to accommodate them.

“We can certainly accommodate the capacity that’s being lost at the Super 8 Hotel,” Duke said.

The Jag Hotel expansion in downtown St. John’s is expected to open either in late 2024 or in 2025, she added.

“I think that the visitors who would have previously been at the Super 8 have a number of other choices of similar types of properties that could accommodate them.”

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