Opposition demands government stop sale of Lions Place
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The NDP and Liberals called on the Progressive Conservative government to stop the sale of Lions Place downtown after the deadline for bids closed Oct. 14.
“This is the largest non-profit seniors housing block in the province,” said the NDP MLA for the area, Uzoma Asagwara, during question period.
“The residents are asking for a 90-day reprieve from the sale of Lions Place to allow all levels of government to come to terms on an agreement to stop the sale,” the member for Union Station asked Families Minister Rochelle Squires.
“Will the minister listen to the residents and provide a reprieve so that everyone can come to an agreement and keep Lions Place from being sold?”
Squires said her department has had “productive meetings” with the residents committee at Lions Place and other levels of government. “This is a private building and the government of Manitoba is not privy to offers that have come in during a private sale,” she told the house.
Residents learned in a July letter from Lions Housing Centres — the non-profit organization that operates Lions Place, Lions Manor and Lions Personal Care Home in the city — that the building at 610 Portage Ave. with 287 units was up for sale. Residents and advocates fear the non-profit building, in which rents are affordable, will be sold to a for-profit owner that will jack up the rent.
Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont also raised the matter of Lions Place after receiving a letter from its residents council asking for legislation to block the sale of non-profit buildings that have received federal or provincial funding, modelling it after similar legislation in Quebec.
“We’re warning this government, again, seniors fear being evicted unless this government does something to protect them,” Lamont told the assembly, asking for emergency legislation so Lions Place can only be sold if the minister signs off on it.
Squires told the house that “significant measures” are coming.
“We have looked at legislation across the country and we’ll be bringing forward significant measures to ensure that all Manitobans have a safe and affordable place to call home.”
In an interview, Squires said she’s “very focused” on working with all stakeholders at Lions Place, other levels of government and non-profit housing providers “ensuring we’ve got rent supplements and rent assistance for individuals who need it so we will not see individuals without a safe place to call home.”
The chairman of the Lion’s Place Residents Council Seniors Action Committee said residents are worried about what will happen if the sale goes through.
“We’re calling for a meeting with the Residential Tenancies Branch to give them the lowdown,” Gerald Brown said Monday. He said they met twice with Squires earlier this fall and aren’t confident they’ll be able to stay in the building some have lived in for decades, or find another place to live that’s affordable.
“Residents know that other provinces are protecting social housing — even those held by non-profits – because they know once that housing is gone, it is incredibly hard to get back, if ever,” Asagwara told the house.
Squires said in an interview that her government “is really committed to creating new units of social and affordable housing.”
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.
Updated on Tuesday, November 1, 2022 9:27 AM CDT: Adds related posts.
Updated on Tuesday, November 1, 2022 9:32 AM CDT: Fixes typos.