Nunavik struggles with overcrowded social housing, mounting rent arrears
“We thank tenants who paid their rent"
PUVIRNITUQ — Stress ruled the day during the Kativik Regional Government’s discussion on social housing May 31, on the final day of its meeting in Puvirnituq.
That’s when councillors learned about the mounting tally of unpaid social housing rents in the region and then set about dividing up the 2013 allotment of social housing units among communities that all want more housing.
Social housing tenants in Nunavik owe roughly $1.2 million in unpaid rent for 2011 to the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau, Watson Fournier, the KMHB manager, and its chairperson, Michael Cameron, told councillors.
The housing bureau has accumulated $15.1 million in arrears since 2000 that it’s trying to collect, figures show. As well, there are also tenants who owed money dating back to before 2000.
The worst record of rent payment in 2011 goes to Kangiqsualujjuaq, where one in four social housing tenants didn’t pay some or all of their rent in 2011.
The communities owing the most amount of money from 2011 are Inukjuak ($306,584), Kuujjuaq ($171,289) and Salluit ($244,601).
As for accumulated arrears, the communities owing the most since 2000 are Akulivik ($1 million), Inukjuak ($2 million), Kangiqsualujjuaq ($1.8 million), Kuujjuaq ($2.9 million), Kuujjuaraapik ($1.9 million), Puvirnituq ($1.3 million) and Salluit ($1 million).
The KHMB has been putting more effort into collecting arrears, Fournier told councillors. These efforts lowered the proportion of arrears from 24 per cent in 2010 to 11 per cent in 2011.
But this past year the KMHB was still obliged to evict some chronic non-paying tenants, as a last resort.
“We thank tenants who paid their rent,” Cameron added.
Tenants in Aupaluk, Kangiqsujuaq and Umiujaq all paid their rent in 2011, while only a very few tenants in Akulivik and Puvirnituq failed to pay their rent.
The KRG council also divided up the annual lot social housing units, paid by a recurring deal with the federal and provincial governments and by Plan Nord.
But this time, the KMHB didn’t have its 2011 housing survey, which shows which communities lack the most housing, to show the councillors.
The KRG wanted to allocate the 2013’s lot of social housing units among six of the region’s 14 communities, using information from a 2011 housing needs survey.
And many councillors didn’t want to go ahead with the division without the latest statistics, saying they were upset that the KMHB didn’t come through with the information.
But Watson said the statistics that the KMHB had received from the communities weren’t reliable, and showed too many variances from 2010 to be used. It could take as long as two more months to complete the report, he said.
Despite unhappiness over the lack of current statistics, the KRG councillors decided that they had “no choice” but to proceed with the allocation of the housing to get the materials shipped up in time on he sealift.
They chose between two options, one that would see 140 two-bedroom duplexes built in six communities and another that would see a mix of two-bedroom and four-bedroom units built in six communities.
The majority opted for a mix of units to be built in:
• Akulivik:16 two-bedroom units, four four-bedroom units;
• Aupaluk: Six two-bedroom units, two four-bedroom units;
• Inukjuak: 30 two-bedroom units, 10 four-bedroom units;
• Puvirnituq: 14 two-bedroom units, six four-bedroom units;
• Salluit: 18 two-bedroom units, 10 four-bedroom units; and,
• Tasiujaq: eight two-bedroom units.
This year the KMHB is also undertaking a new round of renovations of social housing units in Nunavik worth $43.5 million. These include major renovations of duplexes and apartments as well minor repairs, such as installing new sewage replacements.
Money is short, Watson told the councillors — and the KMHB is also faced with the loss of six houses that were deliberately damaged by fires in five communities in 2012.
As it stands now, the KMHB only builds and manages a small percentage of Quebec’s social housing units, but accounts for 20 per cent of the provincial housing corporation’s annual budget.