Lots of problems with social housing units in Nunavik: regional councillors
Councillors cite bad doors, "useless sheds," poorly-done renovations, rising rents
(Updated, March 12, 6:30 a.m.)
It’s not funny when you are inside your home and you can’t get out because the only door won’t open.
But that’s what some social housing tenants in Nunavik say happens to them.
The doors in social housing duplex units built since 2000 jam up when it’s cold out, Mary Nassak, the Kativik Regional Government councillor for Kangirsuk, said at the recent meeting of the KRG council in Kuujjuaq.
Nassak told about one incident in her community where tenants had to call a neighbour for assistance to get out of their unit.
“I think the doors need to be changed,” she told Watson Fournier, the manager of the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau, who was at the meeting to present the housing organization’s annual budget.
“You can’t even open them. I think that’s a big concern.”
Fournier later told Nunatsiaq News that there are many conditions which could lead an outside door not opening: the house could be unlevelled due to the freeze-thaw cycles or one of the double doors in the porch could have been left open.
The double door system is necessary to cope with the 50 C difference in temperatures that can exist between the outside and inside air temperatures, he said.
“A single door cannot operate properly in this condition. And there are other reasons,” which the KMHB is looking into. Fournier said.
But problems with opening doors wasn’t the only concern raised during the KRG discussion on housing.
Among the other complaints:
• annual rent increases of eight per cent, which are making the social housing rents too expensive to pay;
• shared maintenance rooms in duplexes that cause tension between tenants; and,
• “useless” sheds built behind units;
• renovations and improvements to social housing units, which will cost the KMHB another $42.9 million in 2013 (after spending $43.5 million in 2012), shoddily done by outside construction crews, who have been rude and insulting to local people, councillors said.
As for steep rents, in Nunavik, rents are not geared to income as elsewhere. Up to June 30, 2013, depending on the tenant’s situation and house size, the rents vary from $100 to $729, according to Quebec’s “Bylaw respecting the conditions for the leasing of dwellings in low-rental housing in Nunavik.”
“However if a tenant thinks that they are paying a disproportionate amount of rent compared to his or her income and that of their spouse, if such is the case, then the by-law has a formula to calculate if the tenant is entitled to a rebate and the income is one of the factors in the calculation,” Fournier later explained to Nunatsiaq News.
As tenants’ rent increases owning a home becomes more interesting, Fournier added — with encouraging home ownership a priority for the KMHB, which has a home ownership program.
Several KRG councillors suggested that to ease the region’s housing crisis it’s also time to start moving small households into smaller units, while freeing up larger five-bedroom units for growing families who are often stuffed into smaller units.
That’s easier said than done because often people who have lived in a social housing unit for 20 years don’t want to move, said Fournier, who promised to look into all the concerns from KRG councillors.
At the KRG meeting, councillors selected Nassak to represent the KRG on the board of the KMHB.