Residents concerned by potential sale of Lions Place

A group of residents are calling on the Manitoba government to stop the privatization of Lions Place, a sale that could leave hundreds of residents without a home. Alex Karpa reports.

By Alex Karpa

Residents of Lions Place here on Portage Avenue are calling on the provincial government to help stop the privatization of the affordable living complex. If the sale goes through, it could leave hundreds without a place to live.

Back on July 26, a letter was given to all the residents living at Lions Place saying the building would go up for sale. Gerald Brown says residents, including himself who has been living there for eight years, couldn’t believe what they were being told.

“It reminded me of deer in the headlights. They were saying, ‘What? You have been telling us all this time that you have been making improvements, things have been improving, you have been spending this money and now you’re going to sell?’” said Gerald Brown, Lions Place Residents Council.

Brown says the majority of the 287 suites are occupied by seniors, people who are living on a fixed income, rent assistance and some with a pension-only income.

Brown is leading an action committee to try and stop this sale to prevent what he says are members’ worries that they will be driven out.

“People who are between 55 and 105, the average age of 77, are really concerned about where they might go if they can find a space that has similar facilities, amenities, and price that they can afford,” added Brown.

Rene Jamieson has been living at Lions Place for five years. At her age, she fears she is going to be kicked out of a place that she feels comfortable in.

“People keep an eye out for one another. We watch out for one another which doesn’t happen in neighbourhoods as much anymore, but it doesn’t happen in Lions and that’s one of the things we want to keep, is that sense of community,” said Jamieson.

Shauna Mackinnon from Right to Housing Coalition says there is little to no alternative housing for the current residents at Lions Place.

She compared this potential sale to the recent sale of Smith Street Lofts, which was once owned by the province’s housing agency and meant for low-income tenants.

The building was turned into suites targeting higher-income tenants, with apartments costing up to $2,000 a month. In comparison, residents at Lions Place pay $844 for one room and just over $1,000 for two rooms a month.

“Our government has reached a new low. When it sees fit to implement a practice that displaced vulnerable people by selling their homes, and then uses the profit from the sale of those homes to support housing initiatives for other low-income people. That is not how re-distribution is supposed to work,” explained Mackinnon.

A spokesperson with the province told CityNews, they are aware of the concerns raised at Lions Place and they’ll be meeting with the senior’s action committee.

Brown says the lack of support from the province shows where this government stands in prioritizing and treating seniors.

“Think about it if this was your mother or grandmother. How would you feel if you knew that she might be put out on the streets in the next six months? This is where we are at.”

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