Nunavimmiut say social housing body is failing them
“We are going homeless”
Social housing tenants across Nunavik showed up at Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau offices Oct. 3 to protest the agency’s recent rent hikes and eviction policies.
More than a dozen Kuujjuammiut stood in front of the agency’s headquarters in the rain Thursday morning holding signs that said “We are going homeless” and “Food or rent? Often a choice we have to make.”
The protest’s organizer Jonathan Epoo said many Nunavimmiut are having a hard time making ends meet.
“You see too many evictions, too many families struggling – young families like mine, where both parents are working but still living pay cheque to pay cheque,” said the father of four. “We’ve tried to talk to the KMHB but they keep raising my rent, while my salary stays the same.”
Rents for social housing units in Nunavik rise by eight per cent each year, while this was the fourth year the KMHB has carried out evictions across the region for tenants who have not paid rent over an extended period of time.
That program was intended to prompt tenants to start paying off the more than $15 million in arrears the KMHB has accumulated since 2000.
But many Nunavimmiut are still angry after the housing bureau flew to Quaqtaq last month to destroy a shack a local man was living in on the same property of the social housing unit he was evicted from earlier this year.
The KMHB has since apologized and offered the man his housing back.
Epoo says the agency’s policies are not adapted to Nunavik’s realities and show “a lack of respect for the struggles we face.”
Epoo is also concerned with the quality of social housing in the region; the unit where he and his family live always has a draft coming in, he says, and he has to put blankets around doors and windows to keep the chill out.
Other tenants are dealing with mold and sewage tank odours in their homes, he added.
“It’s time we stood up, loud and clear,” said Epoo, who plans to organize a second event Oct. 15.
The KMHB’s chairperson Michael Cameron said he acknowledged the rallies and planned to address tenants’ concerns next week.
The housing bureau insists that evictions are a “last resort” and the agency is very open to making special arrangements with tenants who have trouble meeting their rent deadlines.
If a tenant owes more than $3,000 and pays less than 18 per cent of their rent over the past year, for example, they could expect to receive a letter from the KMHB.
Tenants would receive another letter when arrears reach $10,000. Once numerous letters have been sent out, tenants who have not made a deal with the housing bureau could face eviction.