Lions board made commitment to help residents ‘long term,’ charity official says

Non-profit seniors housing complex may be in Alberta company’s hands by January

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The executive director of Lions Housing Centres is defending the sale of Manitoba’s largest non-profit seniors housing complex to an Alberta firm, criticizing opponents of the move and concerned about comments made by a provincial cabinet minister.

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The executive director of Lions Housing Centres is defending the sale of Manitoba’s largest non-profit seniors housing complex to an Alberta firm, criticizing opponents of the move and concerned about comments made by a provincial cabinet minister.

Gilles Verrier told the Free Press Monday that residents and their advocates who’ve expressed concerns about being priced out of the building are not being forthcoming.

“What we committed to do to help them long term, that was never mentioned once,” said Verrier, speaking on behalf of the charitable organization’s board, without providing any details. “It’s probably the most vital part for that facility because we have seniors there.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Last Friday, residents in the 287-unit building at 610 Portage Ave., received a “notice of entry,” informing them that management would be inspecting their suites Monday “starting shortly after 12:00 a.m. (sic) and hopefully be done by 4:00 p.m.”

“Residents were never, never, never told in any way, shape or form they would have to find another location.”

Last Friday, residents in the 287-unit building at 610 Portage Ave., received a “notice of entry,” informing them that management would be inspecting their suites Monday “starting shortly after 12:00 a.m. (sic) and hopefully be done by 4:00 p.m.”

At the end of the note, residents were informed that Lions Place has a prospective buyer and it may be sold by the end of January to an Alberta company.

When tenants were told the building was up for sale in July, they had questions but didn’t express alarm, Verrier said.

“Residents weren’t upset,” but asked ‘How much would we have to pay more in rent for you not to sell the building?’ because they know they have it so good.”

Families Minister Rochelle Squires, who is responsible for housing, said Friday — before tenants learned the complex was potentially sold — that work was underway behind the scenes to ensure “a very positive outcome” for the residents. She said she wanted to convey a message to residents that they wouldn’t experience rent increases as a result of a sale and to allay any “undue anxiety about their living situation.”

Verrier said he has never been contacted by any level of government to discuss any possible solutions.

“For Squires to make a statement that they are working on a solution and not talking to anyone at Lions about the solution is not acceptable,” he said in an email Saturday.

On Monday, after hearing about the pending sale, Squires said every senior at Lions Place living on a fixed income who can’t endure a rent increase “will be able to afford their rent — this month, this year and well into the future.”

In question period, the MLA for the area, Uzoma Asagwara (Union Station), demanded the government take action.

“These units should not be lost to private, out-of-province developers,” Asagwara said, noting that public funding paid the mortgage on Lions Place. “Will the minister intervene to save affordable seniors housing at Lions Place?”

After question period Squires said the government wants to ensure more non-profit housing isn’t sold to the private sector and is considering legislation similar to Quebec’s, which requires ministerial approval for such transfers.

“We certainly don’t want to see this occur again in the province of Manitoba,” she told reporters.

“It’s very unfortunate that Lions Place did not come to the Province of Manitoba prior to decisions being made about the future of Lions Place. It was very difficult for the province to come in on this private sale after the fact.”

Tuesday morning, the Lions Place seniors action committee is holding a press conference in front of a former non-profit complex at 185 Smith St., that was sold to private developers. The group is asking the province to commit to legislation requiring ministerial approval on the sale of non-profit housing and to impose a five-year moratorium on rent increases at Lions Place.

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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Updated on Monday, November 28, 2022 10:14 PM CST: Typo fixed

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