Minister vows ‘positive outcome,’ no rent hike for Lions Place residents

Squires says she’s working to resolve situation about planned sale of non-profit complex

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Elderly residents at Lions Place who fear losing their homes in a planned sale of the non-profit seniors complex, got some positive, although vague, news Friday.

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Elderly residents at Lions Place who fear losing their homes in a planned sale of the non-profit seniors complex, got some positive, although vague, news Friday.

Families Minister Rochelle Squires told the Free Press work is going on behind the scenes to find a solution, despite concerns from tenants and their advocates that silence from the Progressive Conservative government indicated nothing was being done on their behalf.

Residents, who describe the 287-unit building as a tightly knit community that allows them to continue living independently, learned over the summer the Lions Housing Centres board intends to sell it to private interests.

Work is going on behind the scenes to find a solution regarding the sale of Lions Place, according to Families Minister Rochelle Squires. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Squires promised there will be no rent increases.

“That is our commitment,” she said in an interview. “That is what we’re working toward with various departments.”

Squires said she couldn’t discuss any of the details, but wants the situation resolved quickly.

“It is a very urgent situation; I don’t want to see the residents at Lions Place experiencing prolonged and undue anxiety about their living situation,” the MLA for Riel said.

“I absolutely respect and appreciate that community they’ve built over the years. I’m doing everything I can to maintain that community.… I understand the urgency and I am working as fast as we possibly can to ensure a very positive outcome.”

Earlier, a spokesman for the group representing the tenants said he was alarmed to learn that as recently as last week, the province had not spoken with anyone on the charitable community-service organization’s housing centres board about the sale.

“That was a bit shocking,” said Tom Simms, whose 93-year-old mother is a resident. He belongs to the Lions Place residents council seniors action committee that met with another group — composed of representatives from the Manitoba Non-Profit Housing Association, the University of Winnipeg Community Renewal Corp., and federal and provincial governments — that’s working on an alternative plan to selling the building.

Their efforts, however, are on hold while they wait to see if the province can convince the charity to put a 90-day pause on the sale of the building. The board had refused a similar request from residents.

There would be no point in trying to come up with a rescue plan if the working group isn’t afforded adequate time, Simms said.

“An alternative plan for Lions Place is irrelevant if the building is sold,” he said.

Lions Housing Centres has funding relationships with the province involving its other facilities and long-term care programs, and has said it needs to sell Lions Place because of financial challenges.

“The province has leverage as a funder of Lions housing programs,” said Simms.

It could use that leverage to meet with the board of Lions Housing Centres “to come up with a better solution than simply selling off Lions Place,” he said.

Elderly tenants are growing increasingly anxious, Simms said.

“The residents see all these people coming in suits with calculators and all that kind of stuff — just in the last week — and it frightens them,” he said. “People see this and it creates a lot of stress for people. The building could be sold any day.”

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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