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'Flotel' To House Construction Workers
Jessica Haydahl

A cruise ship from the Baltic Sea has sailed into B.C., on its way to being turned into a floating hotel for construction workers in Kitimat.

The Silja Festival, which once carried passengers from Sweden to Latvia, arrived in Vancouver's harbour on Saturday night. It will undergo an extreme makeover before it sails to northern B.C. to house 600 people working on $3.3 billion in upgrades to the Rio Tinto Alcan aluminum smelter.

The 171-metre ship, which will be renamed the Delta Spirit Lodge, has been leased by Bridgemans Services and the Haisla Nation to provide housing. Rio Tinto's current work camp is already full and there's shortage of rental homes in Kitimat. The community is booming with growth in resource industries, and its population could explode if several proposed liquefied natural gas projects are approved.

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Kitimat Cruise Ship To House Workers

Poverty advocates say the housing demand is creating "renovictions," when landlords evict tenants to upgrade their units and then hike their rent, reported CBC News.

A renovated rental suite in Kitimat was advertised at $3,200 per month, compared to $425 per month more than a year ago, said CBC.

Pastor Don Read, with the Kitimat Ministerial Association, spoke at a recent Kitimat city council meeting and suggested property developers are being greedy, reported the Northern Sentinel.

Kitimat housing worker Anne Moyles told the CBC people are being forced to move out of the community because they can't find an affordable place to live.

The ship, which spent 40 days travelling from the Baltic Sea, through the Panama Canal and up the West Coast, will be cleaned and retrofitted by 150 workers in the next week or so at Seaspan's dry dock in North Vancouver.

The total cost for the voyage and renovations to the "flotel" is forecast at more than $4 million, said a news release on Sunday. An additional $1 million in food will be loaded onto the ship before it heads to Kitimat.

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