Seniors living at Winnipeg’s Lions Place fear potential sale could evict them

A group of seniors living in an affordable housing complex in Winnipeg scramble to find a new nonprofit to take over their Portage Avenue high-rise after learning that the current owners are putting it up for sale.

Gerald Brown, chair of Lions Place’s senior action committee, said residents were recently told during a meeting with Lions Housing Centers that their 287-suite building would go on the market without any timeline. clear does not specify when this would happen.

“When I watched the people in the auditorium that day, it reminded me of deer in the headlights,” Brown said at a press conference with residents and supporters on Tuesday, adding that potential buyers had already begun to visit the building.

Tuesday’s press conference took place in a former Manitoba Housing building downtown, now known as Smith Street Lofts. This building was once home to 200 low-income tenants, mostly seniors, said Shauna Mackinnon of the Right to Housing Coalition.

Mackinnon said residents were told they would be temporarily relocated in 2015 as the building underwent much-needed repairs.

WATCH | Seniors fear a potential sale could cause them to leave Winnipeg’s Lions Place:

Seniors living at Winnipeg’s Lions Place fear potential sale could evict them

A group of seniors living in an affordable housing complex in Winnipeg scramble to find a new nonprofit to take over their Portage Avenue high-rise after learning that the current owners are putting it up for sale.

They never came back. Instead, the province sold the building for $16.2 million in 2018, and none of the suites were kept affordable, she said. The province took $7.6 million from the sale and said it would use the money to expand the initiatives to other low-income tenants.

Mackinnon called it a “new low” for the provincial government. “Fast forward to today, and a similar fate awaits senior citizens living in Lions Place,” she said.

To prevent this, Brown hopes he and the action committee will be able to secure the future of Lions Place by engaging with all three levels of government. They’re hoping a nonprofit will take over the building and continue the services they need, but Brown said Lions Place isn’t the only one going through such a situation.

He spoke to other similar institutions, who said they were in the same boat. Although their mortgages have been paid off, they do not have enough money to meet maintenance costs due to inflation.

“They built a lot of these buildings 40 years ago. They’re all in trouble now,” he said, calling the government’s short-sighted policy on affordable housing for seniors.

“We have to do something, not just for me, but for anyone else in similar situations,” he said, noting that many residents live on fixed incomes and rely on rental assistance. and pension plans.

Gerald Brown, chairman of Lions Place’s senior action committee, says other institutions like Lions Place are in the same boat as maintenance costs skyrocket under rising inflation. (Radio Canada)

Brown said a letter from the committee was hand-delivered to Families Minister Rochelle Squires, who has yet to respond. He said they also plan to lobby Winnipeg mayoral candidates to move forward on the issue and will hold further meetings with Lions Place as well.

“I feel very sorry for them, after the reputation they have built after all these years,” he said.

Mackinnon said the government was shirking its responsibilities to provide affordable housing, hoping the market would take care of it.

“That experiment failed. … The market didn’t care about it, and it won’t care about it, because there’s no profit to be made.”

A statement from a provincial spokesperson said Manitoba Housing does not own Lions Place, but will still meet with the senior action committee to address concerns.

Rene Jamieson, chair of the core action committee, said she sees Lions Place more as a community and a village rather than an apartment building. She compared each floor of the building to a street.

“And people watch each other, we watch each other, which doesn’t happen as much in the neighborhoods anymore. That’s one of the things we want to keep: the sense of community and caring to each other,” she added. said at the press conference.

Rene Jamieson, chairman of Lions Place’s senior action committee, says the problem goes deeper than bricks and mortar. (Radio Canada)

Jamieson said there are many resources for seniors at Lions Place, such as a store, clinic, library, garden, greenhouse, art classes and storytelling group.

The building would not have the same value as it does to current tenants, she said, adding that the problem goes deeper than bricks and mortar.

“Getting old is not easy for people,” she said. “If someone tells you it’s the golden years, spit it in their eyes, because it’s not.”

Charles P. Patton