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'It can still be stopped': Lions Place residents rally to stop sale, ask the province to step in


Stop the sale – a message chanted by dozens of residents worried the tentative sale of their downtown non-profit housing complex might force them out.

The crowd of concerned residents was outside Lions Place on Portage Avenue Thursday morning, calling on the province to step in and freeze rent increases for all tenants through the residential tenancies act.

Gerald Brown, chairperson of the Seniors Action Committee at Lions Place, said this would protect residents of the 287-unit building if its sale to an unnamed Alberta-based firm does go through.

"I'm very concerned for the people who are living on low income… The people who are almost on the edge of poverty," he said. "If the rent goes up here 10 per cent, it will be almost impossible for them."

Lions Housing Centres executive director Gilles Verrier previously told residents the organization can no longer afford to own the aging building, which still needs millions of dollars worth of renovations.

Lions Housing Centres told CTV News in early December it had accepted an offer from the Alberta-based firm, which put in a bid to buy the building. The organization said the building's sale could be a done deal by the end of January, if the buyer is satisfied after a review.

Brown said the potential buyer has visited the building in the past months, though residents still don't know whether or not the sale is going through. He believes rent will go up if it does.

"There's no question about that," he said. "They will renovate the suites according to what they think is necessary and they'll raise the rent."

A crowd of concerned residents outside Lions Place on Portage Avenue on Jan. 19, 2023, protest the pending sale of the building. (Source: Glenn Pismenny/CTV News Winnipeg)

CTV News reached out to Lions Housing Centres for an update on the sale.

"I think it can still be stopped. It's a long shot, but we'll work at it," Brown said, adding he hopes the province will buy the building. "Then make it available to non-profits here in the city to put in their bids."

He said the committee has been seeking a meeting with Premier Heather Stefanson and Families Minister Rochelle Squires.

CTV News reached out Minister Squires, who said in a prepared statement, "Our government's commitment has always been to the seniors living at Lions Place and ensuring that they receive no rent increases and that no senior is displaced from Lions Place based on the ownership of the building."

Squires told CTV News an announcement will be happening in the coming days.

-with files from CTV's Katherine Dow Top Stories

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