Nunavik’s housing office launches campaign to prevent evictions

Sonia Gosselin Alaku is the new community relations coordinator for the Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau in Kuujjuaq. Her role is to help tenants who aren’t paying their rent to get their accounts sorted out—before they face eviction. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)

KUUJJUAQ—Nunavik’s social housing office will once again hand out eviction notices to non-paying tenants in 2018.

But not before organization has checked in with households who are behind in rent to find out why and what it can do to help.

The Kativik Municipal Housing Bureau faces millions of dollars worth of arrears from unpaid rent.

But its board of directors opted not to send out eviction notices in 2017, to give the organization time to come up with a new approach.

Starting this week, the KHMB’s new community relations coordinator, Sonia Gosselin Alaku, will begin calling and visiting Kuujjuaq tenants who are behind in rent.

Gosselin Alaku will assess the household’s income to determine that their rent is set to the proper rate. With a rent freeze now in effect across Nunavik, tenants may need to produce a notice of assessment to the KMHB to have their rent adjusted.

If tenants are still having trouble making ends meet, the housing bureau offers different payment options, she said.

Given the proper notice and resources, Gosselin Alaku said no one should have to face evictions in 2018.

“The KMHB doesn’t want people to be on the streets,” she said. “We’ll do everything in our power to give them resources.”

Gosselin Alaku is a long-time Nunavik resident and the former housing manager in Salluit.

Over the next few months, she plans to visit each of the 14 communities to check in with social housing tenants.

“Through that process, I’ll be available for anyone, anywhere,” she said.

“We’re in a very good [position] to help our tenants pay their rent and keep their homes.”

The KMHB only started issuing eviction notices in 2010 to tenants who owed more than $10,000 rent.

The first notice tenants would receive comes from Quebec’s Régie de lodgement or rental board, which is usually issued in the spring.

Then the KMHB follows up with a first, second and third notice. The fourth notice is the eviction notice itself, typically issued in the early fall, which gives tenants a five-day warning before the bailiff comes to evict tenants.

Evictions have been controversial across the region. Nunavimmiut have complained that forcing people out of their homes leaves them homeless in a region with a housing shortage.

But Gosselin Alaku said she hears just as much frustration from tenants who do pay rent who would like to see non-payers penalized, or from Nunavimmiut who are on a waiting list for social housing.

The housing office didn’t have an updated tally on unpaid rent across Nunavik in 2017. But its arrears sat at $17.8 million in 2015—the highest the KHMB had seen so far.

Along with its new outreach efforts, the KHMB will also launch a campaign to encourage tenants to pay their monthly rent.

“We’ll offer little tips to help a tenant react and put their account back on track,” said Marie-Christine Vanier, KMHB’s communications officer. “In the end, we want them to be happy in their home.”

Nunavimmut can reach Gosselin Alaku directly at (819) 964-2000 extension 257 or by email at .