Nunavik housing agency hopes to build on home ownership subsidy

Bureau says 118 homes have been built or purchased through program since it was introduced in the 1990s

A view over Inukjuak. A Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau subsidy program that helps Nunavik residents purchase and build their own home is set to expire by the end of 2023, but the Nunavik housing agency hopes to see a new and improved program replace it. (File photo by Sarah Rogers)

By Sarah Rogers

A Quebec subsidy program that helps Nunavik residents build their own home is soon set to expire, but the region’s housing agency hopes to see a new and improved program replace it.

Since 1995, the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau has administered the program through the province. It’s designed to offset up to 75 per cent of the costs of constructing a home, up to a maximum price, over a 15-year period.

The $15.9 million the province invested in 2018 will gone by December 2023. In fact, all the available funding for this period has been allocated and those homes are scheduled to be built over the next three summers.

“We’ve checked, and the program is the most generous in the world,” said Patrick Miron, deputy director general of the housing bureau.

“So we’d like to see a continuation of the program as it is but with way more funding. We’d like to see it doubled.”

Under the bureau’s home ownership program, the maximum cost for a three-bedroom home is $700,000, so applicants could receive up to $525,000.

That subsidy will cover the cost of design, construction and any travel south required for planning purposes.

The Kativik housing bureau says 118 homes have been built or purchased through different versions of its home ownership subsidy program since it was first introduced in the 1990s.

Though a majority of the homes are located in Nunavik’s largest community, Kuujjuaq, there are now home owners in Inukjuak, Kangiqsujuaq, Puvirnituq and Kuujjuaraapik. A non-profit society also used the subsidy to build an eight-unit elders residence in Inukjuak.

An estimated 97 per cent of Nunavimmiut live in social housing or accommodations subsidized by their employer.

For that reason, the idea of home ownership can still be a hard sell, said Pat York, a Kuujjuaq contractor who has built a number of homes that qualified for the subsidy.

“[The subsidy] is reaching regular, working people,” York said. “But I’m not sure how effective it is in changing the status quo.

“That would require a major shift in thinking, with social housing as the norm. They don’t want it because rent’s cheap.”

York credits the Kativik housing bureau for tweaking the program over its lifetime to better accommodate the region’s needs and timelines.

But there’s still room for improvement, he said, such as beefing up funding to better subsidize the purchase of existing homes, as well as a rent-to-own program.

In 2018, the Quebec government announced $5 million towards a buy-back program,  which would give successful applicants support to buy existing homes that don’t find private buyers, though the program hasn’t officially rolled out yet.

The KMHB also received funding to do a feasibility study looking at how to help current social housing tenants to eventually purchase the units they live in, as part of a rent-to-own program.

Back at the bureau, Miron hopes both of those specific subsidies can be folded into the new program.

He said the bureau will also negotiate for an increase to the maximum production cost and insurance subsidies for new home owners.

“We’ve seen a lot of momentum, a lot of people inquiring about how to apply,” he said. “We want to keep people interested.”

The program’s current budget will go towards the construction of 30 new homes, with a remaining 10 successful applicants’ homes still slated to be built this year and next.

Miron hopes to see the new agreement in place with the provincial government by 2023.

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(4) Comments:

  1. Posted by House Buyer (as if) on

    Lets say, a 2 bedroom, at 25% (housing program pays 75%?), plus the crazy costs of materials during covid and beyond (200% increase in softwood), would it be safe to say that my partner and I need a savings of… $175K?

  2. Posted by Let Us Say on

    There is a small market for rentals. Mostly because of company housing in CNVs. Each organization has its own housing programs. Houses for teachers, health care workers, etc.

  3. Posted by Sean McDonald on

    Don’t forget in 20 years you will have to renovate the house and pay for anything that breaks at over $100. An hour.

  4. Posted by Tommy Palliser on

    I still don’t see any benefit to this program for Inuit. The rent that we pay is subsidized. The maintenance is provided, included, as well as renovations and utilities. Limited employment in the north, limited housing market in the north, increasing costs of construction and operating costs..

    $800-$1,100/month, all included, not the best maintenance, but improvements can and should be made. *Government has the responsibility to house Inuit in Nunavik – in the JBNQA…

    vs.

    $2,500+++/month, NOT including maintenance, renovations, shipping of materials and finding a local contractor that could provide the needed renovations on the spot, hoping the parts or materials needed are in town and affordable, if not, wait and the costs of waiting…
    Is there a buying market of houses, can we resale? If anyone of the paying family members lose a job, which are few and far between for Inuit, the salary rates for Inuit are mostly at the bottom end of the scale due to the present system, and limited educational support systems or interest of the organizations to put in place certain educational and career development programs for Inuit to take advantage of the higher paying jobs.

    I still see this as the government – housing agency, as seeing it is cheaper and better for them to get out of their responsibilities to house Inuit in Nunavik, and looking at our increase in population, etc. Better I guess if you are looking at the side of the government, and to look for ways to get our of your responsibilities. Is this fair, or ethical?

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