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Protesters seek affordable housing protection

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A United Church group attended a protest Wednesday outside the office of Families Minister Rochelle Squires to back up demands from Lions Place residents the province do more to provide and protect housing.

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A United Church group attended a protest Wednesday outside the office of Families Minister Rochelle Squires to back up demands from Lions Place residents the province do more to provide and protect housing.

“We have to change the course of what we’re doing,” said minister Caryn Douglas. She was joined by eight members of her congregation, United Church in Meadowood, outside of the Riel constituency office of the local MLA.

The church committee advocating for affordable housing protested alongside a dozen Lions Place residents.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

United Church minister Caryn Douglas said the “humanitarian crisis” Winnipeg businessman Mark Chipman referred to at a downtown safety announcement Tuesday is citywide.

Douglas said the “humanitarian crisis” prominent Winnipeg businessman Mark Chipman referred to at a downtown safety announcement Tuesday is citywide.

“This is not just an inner-city issue. People are struggling everywhere,” she said.

“Last week, we had a man sleeping in our garden here in south St. Vital,” the minister said. “We invited him in and gave him something to eat.

“He was a nice young man,” addicted to drugs and trying to get away from the source of the drugs, “but they’re everywhere,” Douglas said.

Her congregation is calling on the province and the community to solve the housing problems plaguing the city and worsened by the drug crisis, inflation, rising interest rates and an affordability crisis.

“The most vulnerable get pushed out of the housing market entirely,” said Douglas. Her church wants to prevent that from happening to Lions Place residents, the minister added.

In July, tenants of the 287-unit Lions Place — mostly seniors on fixed incomes and those of modest means — learned the building was for sale. The tenants fear it will be sold to for-profit buyers, with a plan to renovate and raise rents out of their reach.

A Lions Place residents group has asked the provincial government to pass legislation that would impose a 90-day moratorium on the sale of the non-profit apartment block until other arrangements can be made — to prevent the sale or find another non-profit organization to take over operations.

Squires was asked about Lions Place during question period Wednesday, and if she’d support a moratorium on the sale.

“We need to protect social housing in this province, especially for seniors,” said Bernadette Smith, NDP MLA for Point Douglas.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

United Church minister Caryn Douglas wants to see affordable housing units and non-profit housing, such as Lions Place, protected.

Although the government does not own the building, Squires acknowledged: “We do have a responsibility for affordable housing.”

She said the Tory government has built 745 new social housing units, budgeted more money than ever for housing, and quadrupled rent assistance payments. Squires said she’s working closely with those involved at Lions Place, and wished the NDP would quit “fear-mongering.”

Meantime, Douglas wants to see affordable housing units and non-profit housing, such as Lions Place, protected. “We hope the government will listen to the request of the residents.”

“There’s a lot of people living on the edge,” said the minister, who used to do outreach work in the inner city.

Aside from a shortage of affordable rental units, rising interest rates are squeezing those with mortgages who risk losing their homes, said Douglas.

“People who are way overextended on their mortgages — what’s going to happen as interest rates rise?”

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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