WEATHER ALERT

‘Where are we going to go’

Residents worry as Lions Place reaches tentative deal to sell the downtown apartment building

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The operators of Lions Place – Manitoba’s largest non-profit seniors housing complex – have reached a tentative deal to sell the downtown apartment building to a company based in Alberta.

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The operators of Lions Place – Manitoba’s largest non-profit seniors housing complex – have reached a tentative deal to sell the downtown apartment building to a company based in Alberta.

A notice detailing upcoming suite inspections and vague information about a private buyer was slipped under residents’ doors on Friday.

“We finally have some information we can share on the sale of Lions Place,” wrote Gilles Verrier, the executive director of Lions Housing Centres, which operates three residences, including Lions Manor and Lions Personal Care Home.

MAGGIE MACINTOSH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Yvonne Brisson, 73, said she and her neighbours are worried about the future of their home.

“After careful consideration, (we) have accepted an offer from a firm with their head office based in Alberta. They have submitted a deposit and are in the process of doing their due diligence. If everything meets their satisfaction, the sale may be completed by the end of January.”

Much to their surprise, elderly residents in the 287-unit building were informed in the summertime that the non-profit’s board was seeking new ownership of the complex at 610 Portage Ave.

At the time, Verrier indicated the charity had spent $3.6 million on upgrades over the last three years but “many more millions” were required to update the aging facility.

Neither Rick Pinchin, president of the Lions Club of Winnipeg, nor Verrier could be reached for comment Sunday.

Resident Yvonne Brisson said she has felt uneasy since news broke about the property hitting the market – and even more so, after receiving the latest letter.

The 73-year-old has called Lions Place home for the last six years.

“The community is close, and we’re all probably wondering the same thing: ‘What’s going to happen? Where are we going to go, if something drastic happens?’” she said, while lighting up a cigarette outside the housing complex on Sunday.

The resident said she appreciates how central the building is and the sense of community inside it.

Brisson’s monthly rent is $848 and given both her fixed income and rising inflation, she said she is unsure how she would be able to afford a hike should there be one.

Family Minister Rochelle Squires told the Free Press there will be no rent increases when new owners take over.

“I don’t want to see the residents at Lions Place experiencing prolonged and undue anxiety about their living situation,” Squires said in an interview last week, during which she suggested the Tories were working behind the scenes to address tenant concerns.

One of the members of the Lions Place residents council senior action committee, which was formed after managers announced the building was going up for sale, said the province’s promise suggests officials are interested in putting money into rent assistance.

“Manitoba taxpayers (could soon be) paying corporate welfare to an Alberta company for us to keep the rent down,” said Tom Simms, whose 93-year-old mother is a resident of the building.

Members of the committee were scheduled to meet Sunday evening to discuss the ongoing matter.

Simms said community members have questions about the identity of the interested buyer and the private firm’s track-record.

“It’s bad news, period,” he said, adding there there doesn’t seem to be a lot of sensitivity regarding how updates are being delivered to senior residents.

The latest development was communicated at the bottom of a “notice of entry” letter.

The Nov. 25 memo states bids on the property were reviewed by a three-member panel assigned by the organization’s board of directors.

In recent months, both residents and the province have separately requested the charity to put a 90-day pause on the sale of the building.

Residents, community members and advocates for public housing have repeatedly voiced concerns about the fact the non-profit operator appears to be focused on selling the complex to a private firm rather than seeking out an alternative.

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh
Reporter

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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