$1.2M to protect Lions Place residents
Deal to forestall ‘renoviction’
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Lions Place residents who’ve been concerned about being forced out of their homes got a measure of reassurance from the province Thursday.
Families Minister Rochelle Squires told the Free Press that $1.2 million in rent subsidies will be available to seniors living in the non-profit Portage Avenue complex for two years following its expected sale to an Alberta company.
“This agreement takes effect on the day of the sale,” Squires said, declining to provide the buyer’s name or the sale’s closing date.
The 287-unit block was built 40 years ago to serve as affordable housing for seniors.
Calgary-based real-estate firm MainStreet Equity Inc. — which buys distressed properties, fixes them up and increases rents — is believed to be in the process of purchasing the building; the $24 million sale is expected to be finalized at the end of the month.
“What I want to ensure is the message is there for all residents that when there’s future announcements made about the ownership of the building, they know they’re covered and don’t have to wonder about what’s going to happen to them,” Squires said.
The rent supplement provides a top-up to cover the market rent charged by a landlord and what a tenant can afford to pay, and will ensure rents do not increase for any Lions Place residents for the next two years while a new funding model is being developed, she said.
The deal provides tenants with peace of mind and buys them time to make other arrangements, if necessary, while giving the government time to create new legislation to protect future non-profit properties from being sold to for-profit companies.
“In that time, we have the opportunity to create our new funding model and look at legislation and bring that in — for not just Lions Place, but all other buildings that will be coming off agreement.”
The provincial government had a funding agreement with Lions Place that expired in 2018 and was not renewed. Lions Housing Centres notified tenants last summer that building was for sale and that the charity — which owns other non-profit housing sites — couldn’t afford to keep running the complex.
Neither Lions Housing Centres Inc. nor the Lions Places residents council seniors’ action committee responded to a request for comment Thursday.
Meanwhile, Squires said Thursday long-term help is on the way for the unhoused. She promised the spring budget will include spending for a “real, holistic strategy on addressing the root causes of homelessness — what creates the environment where people are unsheltered.”
“What we heard in our consultations with over 400 Manitobans is that we absolutely need to create more new units of social and affordable housing,” she said.
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.