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Lions Place residents continue push for non-profit ownership

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Manitoba’s largest non-profit housing complex won’t give worried seniors time to come up with an alternative to their home potentially being sold to for-profit buyers.

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Manitoba’s largest non-profit housing complex won’t give worried seniors time to come up with an alternative to their home potentially being sold to for-profit buyers.

The Lions Place residents council had asked the Lions Housing Centres board of directors for a 90-day pause on the sale of the 287-unit building in downtown Winnipeg, while seeking an alternative non-profit housing ownership solution.

The board responded last week, saying the request was reviewed, discussed and declined.

JOHN WOODS / FREE PRESS FILES

After bidding closed Oct. 14, the Lions Housing Centres board said it will continue to review the offers from interested buyers.

After bidding closed Oct. 14, the board said it will continue to review the offers from interested buyers.

Residents are still hoping another non-profit — with support from the federal and provincial governments — will come to the rescue, as fears of increased rents under a new owner loom.

Tom Simms, whose 93-year-old mother is a Lions Place resident, said a group set to meet Nov. 18.

Federal and provincial representatives, the University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corp. and Manitoba Non-Profit Housing Association aim to come up with a business plan for another non-profit organization to take over Lions Place, said Simms.

That’s if the current non-profit board is interested in Lions Place remaining non-profit, he said. “If the building gets sold, then, obviously, those kind of things wouldn’t be able to impact the situation.”

Lions Club of Winnipeg president Rick Pinchin did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

In July, Lions Place residents were notified the building was for sale. It caused “psychological harm,” the chairman of the seniors action committee said in a letter to the board last month.

“Once the sale is completed, it may cause financial harm, as well,” Gerald Brown’s letter said.

The seniors group has written to Manitoba Families Minister Rochelle Squires, asking her to get involved and to regulate the sale of non-profit units to protect affordable housing stock. Squires hasn’t responded, it said.

On Wednesday, she was not available to comment.

Liberal MP Dan Vandal (Saint Boniface—Saint Vital) says the federal government, through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., funded the creation of Lions Place almost 40 years ago, as affordable housing for Winnipeg seniors.

“I think it should remain as that, and I’m willing to roll up my sleeves and work at it to make sure that it does remain as that,” the northern affairs minister said Wednesday from Iqaluit.

JOHN WOODS / FREE PRESS FILES

“Once the sale is completed, it may cause financial harm, as well,” Gerald Brown wrote in a letter.

On Monday, Vandal wrote the Lions Club of Winnipeg president to say the federal government is willing to work with the community on an alternative.

“The federal government is very interested in keeping it non-profit, and we have resources to do just that, if Lions are interested, and I’m sure the province would be interested, as well,” Vandal said Wednesday.

Lions Place is one of many non-profit housing complexes built around the same time “at major risk” in the next six years, as operating funding agreements with the province expire, said Christina Maes Nino, executive director of Manitoba Non-Profit Housing Association.

Lions Place’s operating agreement initially expired in 2018, was extended for two years, but has since expired again.

“There’s organizations that provide 100 per cent rent-geared-to-income units and, because they don’t have any market (rate) units that can subsidize the lower-income units, if the government isn’t providing support, those will be at significant financial risk,” Maes Nino said.

The association is seeking to work with government and the non-profit sector for an alternative to Lions Place being sold to private, for-profit buyers, she added.

“We don’t own or manage properties ourselves, but we’ve certainly been involved in conversations with government about what would be needed for another non-profit group to take on ownership of Lions Place… They would keep it as good, long-term affordable housing but they do need (government) support for that to happen,” said Maes Nino, who has not spoken to Lions Place board.

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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