Income scale change could double some Nunavik rents

New policy to push high-income families to build homes


Last week councillors with the Kativik Regional Government got a preview of a new social housing rent scale that will see some tenants paying twice as much as they pay now.

The rent increases didn’t surprise the councillors.

“They knew that the region has no choice but to accept what is to happen, that is the gradual implementation of a rent scale,” said Larry Watt, the KRG’s director of communications.

Nunavik’s new rent scale will be phased in over 15 years, starting next year.

Since 1980, rents have only gone up by one or two per cent a year.

But, from July 2005 on, most rents will rise as much as 10 per cent a year until the amount nearly equals monthly household costs for a similar-sized, privately-owned dwelling in Nunavik.

“In 15 years, the people who are renting a three-bedroom house should be paying 85 per cent of what the homeowner is,” said Watson Fournier, manager of the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau in Kuujjuaq.

The idea is to kick-start home ownership in Nunavik by encouraging higher-income residents to build their own homes.

Nunavik already has an affordable housing program that subsidizes home ownership costs.

But, due to the low social housing rents, many high-income earners are reluctant to leave the region’s 2,000 social housing units.

Social housing rents now vary from about $120 to $400 a month at the very most, depending on the size of the unit. Households receiving social assistance pay slightly less rent for a unit.

Under the new scale, elders will have a fixed low rent.

Other households who find the new base rent too high can apply for an adjustment to no more than 25 per cent of their adjusted income.

In other regions of Quebec, rents for social housing units are set at 25 per cent of income, according to a complex scale that requires information about every penny coming into the household.

Nunavik agreed to revise the rent scale as part of the multi-million dollar Canada-Quebec-Nunavik deal in 2001 to build 240 new social housing units in Nunavik.

“That’s what we said we’d do in exchange for houses,” Fournier said.

Fournier said households with lower incomes probably won’t see much of a difference in their rents under the new scale.

Elders should see a drop, but high-income earners, who may now be paying only four per cent of their income in rent, will be paying much, much more.

The new rent scale may also be implemented with a new rent scale for tenants of dwellings that belong to Nunavik employers.

The proposed rental increase reflects the KMHB’s business-like approach to managing its social housing units. The housing bureau has taken 600 tenants to the Quebec rental board for rent arrears and, in many cases, is now using garnishees to recover unpaid rent from income assistance and wages.

A community consultation is scheduled for next August and September to explain the new rental scale in more detail to Nunavimmiut.

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