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Seniors worry they'll be homeless after Manitoba Housing subsidies end

Several seniors living at Lions Place near downtown will have to come up with extra money for rent starting Aug. 1.

Lions Place residents get notice their rent will go up $169 per month in August

Jean Feliksiak jokes she'll have to "beg,l borrow and steal" to make up for the extra $169 she'll need to pay her rent this summer. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Several seniors living at a Lions housing building near downtown will have to come up with extra money for rent come Aug. 1.

That's when a Manitoba Housing agreement with the Lions Place seniors building will end, leaving some residents needing to come up with an extra $169 per month, a nearly 22 per cent increase.

"Do you think our old age pensions and our Canada pensions suddenly jumped up $169 a month? I don't think so," said Jean Feliksiak, 81.

Feliksiak has lived in the affordable seniors residence for 10 years and said she can't afford the increase, but she doesn't have anywhere else to go.

"I'll have to pay it. I'll have to beg, borrow and steal," she said.

"We'll have to cut into any savings we have, saving we have for funeral expenses, I mean we're all getting on like that," she said.
Margaret Topham says she's already struggling to pay bills (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Fellow resident Margaret Topham said she's already struggling to pay bills, including rising costs for transit and Handi-Transit, as well as two ambulance bills from last year.

"There's no more place to cut. If I have to pay more rent I simply will not be able to buy my life-saving medicines, I won't be able to buy basic food," said Topham.

The province says the Lions Place entered an agreement with the federal and provincial governments when they took out a 35-year mortgage to build the place, and that agreement ends on Aug. 1 of this year.

The agreement saw Manitoba Housing subsidize some of the units, but that agreement is linked to the amortization of the mortgage.
The province says the Lions Place entered an agreement with the federal and provincial governments when they took out a 35 year mortgage. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

"Once Lions Place concludes its mortgage payments, it will be in a strong financial position and Manitoba Housing believes the group will then be capable of assuming the role of subsidizing tenants rents as per its mandate to serve low-income seniors," a spokesperson for the province said in an email.

"Under the current agreement, Lions must approach Manitoba Housing for approval to increase rent, which has not been granted. Once the agreement concludes in August, Lions would fall under the Residential Tenancies Act and be subject to rent control."

Lions Place could not be reached for comment.

Several seniors living at a The Lions Housing building near downtown will have to come up extra money for rent come August 1. 1:41

More seniors could face increases

The provincial spokesperson also said these types of agreements are expiring across the country and the federal government is considering this in the development of its National Housing Strategy.

"Manitoba Housing continues to work with non-profit and co-operative housing providers across the province to help them plan for the expiry of operating agreements," the spokesperson said.

That has Wolseley MLA Rob Altemeyer concerned there could be many other seniors and low-income residents faced with similar rent increases.

"When you're a senior living on a fixed income, it's just so unfair and it could very well be applied in other seniors blocks that we just don't know about yet," said Altemeyer.
Wolseley MLA Rob Altemeyer is concerned there could be many other seniors and low income residents faced with similar rent increases

In the meantime, residents at Lions Place have been meeting with staff from Rent Assist to see if they qualify for any other subsidies, but that's causing a lot of stress and confusion.

"To be 80-90 years old, people are confused and they're frightened, they can't handle all this stuff," said Topham.

Topham said even if she does get another housing subsidy, with rents going up each year and transportation and medical costs rising, her fixed income can't afford anything more.

"Maybe $10 or $20 doesn't sound like much to most people, but it's the difference between buying bread and milk," she said.

About the Author

Holly Caruk

Video Journalist

Holly Caruk is a Video Journalist with CBC Manitoba. She is a graduate of the University of Manitoba's film studies program and Red River College's Creative Communications Program.