Kuujjuaq homeowners feel the squeeze

Village owed $1 million in back taxes


Kuujjuaq wants to collect on its unpaid municipal taxes.

Many homeowners in Kuujjuaq owe thousands of dollars in back taxes to the municipality.

In many cases, that’s because these homeowners can’t find affordable home insurance, which is needed to qualify for municipal tax subsidies.

These subsidies are intended to help Nunavimmiut who build their own homes, by covering a large portion of their municipal tax bills, which can average about $9,000 a year in Kuujjuaq.

“I don’t like the idea of owing them money, but what caused the problem wasn’t my compliance. I couldn’t get any insurance that I could afford. I was getting quotes of $4,000 for insurance for a subsidy cheque of $4,500. I couldn’t see justifying paying that,” said one Kuujjuaq homeowner who admitted that he owes “a substantial amount of money.”

The Northern Village of Kuujjuaq has sent a letter to property owners, including the community’s 40 or so homeowners, telling them to pay any back taxes or risk legal consequences.

The move to collect about $1 million in unpaid taxes is one action Kuujjuaq’s mayor Larry Watt promised to make to improve Kuujjuaq’s financial situation.

“The words are taking action,” Watt told Nunatsiaq News.

Last month, Kuujjuaq also made changes to its tax rate, secretary-treasurer Ian Robert­son confirmed, although the net changes won’t add much to the annual bill.

Council approved a small increase for water delivery and a drop in charges for sewage and garbage pick-up. The general rate will increase by 2.2 per cent.

Watt is encouraging home­owners to make arrange­ments with his administration to pay their bills.

“If they have paid reasonably every year, it wouldn’t have reached that point,” Watt said.

Watt said several homeowners have already visited his office, suggesting a plan to bring down their debt.

While Watt agrees that it’s hard to get insurance for a private home, he said that it’s “still it’s up to the homeowner to take measures to see the bill doesn’t get out of hand.”

The Kativik Regional Government is looking at files to see whether the village needs to take legal steps against those who don’t pay their arrears, Watt said.

Meanwhile, homeowners, as well as regional organizations, are scouting around for an insurance company willing to insure private properties so that more homeowners will qualify for a tax subsidy.

Homeowners also want to establish a Kuujjuaq Home­owners’ Association to lobby for their interests.

As a solution to their financial woes, some homeowners have been renting out their homes to regional organizations willing to pay high rents for staff housing.

But the Kativik Regional Housing Bureau recently informed all homeowners not to rent out their homes if they had received any government subsidies to build them.

Nunavimmiut who want to build a home can receive a subsidy to cover 76.5 per cent of the construction costs of their new home, up to a fixed maximum. This subsidy takes into account the household size, size and location of the dwelling.

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