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 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.