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Protesting rent hikes

Chris Windeyer
Northern News Services

Clyde River (Nov 27/06) -Monica Illauq is facing a six-fold rent increase.

The Clyde River mother lives in public housing and the rent hike, combined with the high costs of living in a remote Arctic hamlet, have her wondering how she's going to pay her bills.

Illauq used to pay $60 per month for her housing.

"My new rent is $362 a month now," she said. "And the food costs here are very high."

At a public meeting of the Clyde River Housing Association Monday, Illauq said officials told her she could circulate a petition protesting the increase.

Illauq and her husband, Maranie, quickly gathered 159 names on their petition. They handed the document to Uqqummiut MLA James Arreak before he headed to the legislative assembly last week.

Louis Primeau, manager of the Clyde River Housing Association, seemed a little bemused by the whole thing during an interview with Nunavut News/North.

He said the last change in calculating public housing rents came in January 2003. The old system relied on tenants to inform the Nunavut Housing Corporation of changes in income. That discouraged people from reporting new jobs and earnings, Primeau said.

The new systemcalculates income annual based on federal tax returns. Rents are set in September, so if someone loses a job, they can get stuck with a rent that is beyond their ability to pay.

But there are solutions for people who have that happen, according to Primeau.

"If there's a decrease, we can have them sign a statutory declaration that will permit their rent to go down," Primeau said.

Illauq said her household has not seen a major change in income lately.

Peter Scott, president of the Nunavut Housing Corporation, said it costs an average of $20,000 per year to maintain each housing unit, with water and sewer services being single biggest expense.

"The subsidy level in public housing up here is... absolutely huge," he said.

Twenty per cent of Nunavut's public housing stock is more than 25 years old, Scott said. More than 1,000 units need renovations or replacement.

The housing corporation is hopeful the legislature will approve $12 million for energy efficiency retrofitting during the current session, Scott said.