Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavik July 22, 2014 - 11:29 am

Some social housing tenants in Nunavik to get partial rent freeze

Freeze will create time for stakeholders to “find a fair solution for all Nunavik households"

SARAH ROGERS
Ungava MNA Jean Boucher, second from left, speaks at a press conference in Kuujjuaq July 22 to announce a temporary rent freeze for some social housing tenants in the region, in response to a request by both the KRG and Makivik Corp. (PHOTO BY ISABELLE DUBOIS)
Ungava MNA Jean Boucher, second from left, speaks at a press conference in Kuujjuaq July 22 to announce a temporary rent freeze for some social housing tenants in the region, in response to a request by both the KRG and Makivik Corp. (PHOTO BY ISABELLE DUBOIS)
This is one of the signs held by a protester last fall in front of the KMHB office in Kuujjuaq, where a number of Nunavimmiut protested lack of housing and high rents in the region. (FILE PHOTO)
This is one of the signs held by a protester last fall in front of the KMHB office in Kuujjuaq, where a number of Nunavimmiut protested lack of housing and high rents in the region. (FILE PHOTO)

(updated at 4:50 p.m.)

The Quebec government has agreed to negotiate a new rent scale for Nunavik’s social housing tenants, Ungava MNA Jean Boucher announced July 22.

And in the meantime, the government will freeze rents for certain tenants, retroactive to July 1.

The move is in response to a request by both the Kativik Regional Government and Makivik Corp., whose leaders last December asked Quebec’s social housing agency to cancel the eight per cent rent hikes set for 2014-15.

Regional leaders asked for the freeze to be put into place until a review of the region’s rent scale could be carried out, taking into account Nunavik’s cost of living.

In late May, the Société d’habitation de Québec refused the request.

KRG councillors learned about the SHQ’s response during spring council meetings in Ivujivik, saying the housing body gave no explanation for its decision.

But now, Quebec’s Liberal government said that it has proposed an amendment to the regulations on rental terms for Nunavik’s low-income housing, which will comes into effect at the end of the summer.

“I convinced them that this was a real need in the region,” Boucher said.

That amendment would suspend the annual eight per cent increase over a one-year period for Nunavik’s middle earners, retroactive to July 1, until a new rent scale can be established.

As the amount of rent paid in Nunavik is calculated to a household’s income, low-income tenants won’t be impacted by the freeze. And neither would Nunavik’s high-earning tenants, who make over $90,000 a year.

Nunavik’s middle-earners, households that make roughly between $40,000 and $90,000 a year, will benefit from the freeze.

That group makes up roughly 55 per cent of social housing renters in the region, or about 1,100 households, said Boucher, who worked for the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau before he was elected as MNA last April.

Towards the end of the summer, those renters must take a copy of their notice of assessment to their local housing office to have their rent adjusted, he added.

Boucher said the rent freeze should allow Quebec’s social housing agency and its stakeholders review the regulation over the coming months to “find a fair solution for all Nunavik households.”

Starting in September, the Quebec government will sit down with Nunavik organizations to work out a new rent scale for the region, something Boucher hopes will be finalized before the end of 2014.

Over the last year, the KMHB has become a sounding board for the region’s housing problems: Nunavimmiut say they’re frustrated with the lack of available social housing, and those who do have housing say rent is too high and their homes are in urgent need of repair.

“We know that we’re really behind in housing, because we need more than 800 new houses and our population is growing fast,” interim KMHB chair George Berthe said earlier this year.

“Some of us board members have thought about just closing KMHB, because we don’t feel like we are able to make any improvement.”

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