Winnipeg seniors angry, anxious about agreement to sell Lions Place housing complex

A tentative agreement is now in place for the sale of Lions Place to an Alberta based company. Residents found out about the sale through a letter from management, and it has some concerned they could be displaced. Alex Karpa reports.

By Alex Karpa

Residents of a non-profit housing complex in Winnipeg are concerned they could be displaced from their homes, after a tentative agreement was established for its sale.

Those living at Lions Place in downtown Winnipeg found out about the sale through a letter, after the owners said they could no longer afford to operate the complex earlier this year.

The agreement is for an Alberta-based company to purchase Lions Place.

“There’s frustration, there’s anger, there’s depression, there’s angst,” said resident Gerald Brown, the chairperson of the Lions Place Residents Council Seniors Action Committee. “It has been going on since the 26th of July.”

Lions Place residents received the letter Friday afternoon, titled “Notice of Entry,” giving an explanation of the sale.

“After careful consideration, Lions have accepted an offer from a firm with their head office based in Alberta,” the letter read. “They have submitted a deposit and are in the process of doing their due diligence.”

The letter was signed by Gilles Verrier, the executive director of Lions Club of Winnipeg.

man reads letter outside

Lions Place resident Gerald Brown reading letter sent to residents on Nov. 25, 2022. (Credit: CityNews/Alex Karpa)

“The Lions have gone for the bucks, and not for the seniors,” said Brown, who has been living at Lions Place for eight years.

Brown has been leading an action committee to try and stop this sale. He says he feels residents like himself have been left in the dark.

“Everybody except the Lions has been working with us and this is so ironic because Lions is a charity set up to help out seniors, help out people in need,” he said.

‘Sick in my stomach’ 

The majority of the 287 suites are occupied by seniors living on fixed income, rent assist and some with a pension-only income.

Jean Feliksiak, who has been living at Lions Place for 15 years, was disgusted when she saw the letter.

“I’m 91 years of age, and who is going to move me? Where am I going to move to? This is our home, this is our community, we are all friends here and what is going to happen to us?” said Feliksiak.

“I was sick in my stomach. I didn’t sleep for two or three nights. I have been looking around to see where shall I go, how shall I go, who is going to move me?”

The Lions Place housing complex in Winnipeg. (Credit: CityNews/Alex Karpa)

Owners just care about money, say residents

Sixty-year-old Kerry Smith has been at Lions Place for two years. He says the voices of the residents are not heard at the complex.

“They don’t care in this building,” said Smith. “All they care about is selling and that is the sad point of all of this. Think about the elderly, like you guys say, most vulnerable. They’re not doing most vulnerable. They’re doing what makes them money and that is it.”

Residents at Lions Place pay $844 a month for one bedrooms and just over a $1,000 for two bedrooms.

Families Minister Rochelle Squires says she will do everything she can to make sure residents will not receive rent increases.

“I know with the uncertainty that the residents at Lions Place are experiencing right now, there is a lot of anxiety,” said Squires. “And I want to quell those anxieties for them to give them that certainty that they need, that they will be able to afford their rents this month, next year, and well into the future.”

Brown says the provincial government needs to stop the privatization of non-profit and social housing. He is trying to remain positive and is hopeful something good will come from this sale.

“If they’re the kind of company that will come in and discuss what our needs are, how we can work together on it, then we will be in good shape,” said Brown. “If they don’t, if they continue with the style of management that we have now where people do things to us, not with us, that will make a big difference.”

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