Inuit leaders in Nunavik are pleading with the federal government to step up efforts to build social housing to fill skyrocketing demand for safe, healthy homes in the North.

Nearly 49 per cent or one in two Inuit in the northern region live in an overcrowded home, threatening the health and safety of hundreds of people, said Pita Aaatami, Makivik president.

"This problem that we are living with would never be tolerated in the south," he said Wednesday after meeting with Quebec politicians in the province's capital. "We have been crying wolf for years, but governments only find temporary solutions. Now we are in crisis."

Children in particular are vulnerable in overcrowded housing because they carry higher risks of contracting communicable diseases such as tuberculosis. Inuit children in Nunavik are hospitalized for respiratory illnesses almost more often than any others in the world, according to Health Canada statistics.

Overcrowding can also exacerbate mental health problems and domestic violence, according to the federal health agency.

This week, the federal and Quebec governments announced the renewal of a five-year deal for 300 social housing units in Nunavik.

That won't be enough, Aatami said. The communities need about 1,000 lodgings to accommodate growing populations due to booming birth rates, he said.