Iqaluit family homeless after winter eviction from public housing

Iqaluit resident Ragilee Kopalie and her family are now homeless in winter after being evicted from public housing earlier this month, and that's got some people questioning whether evictions in cold weather should be allowed.

Nunavut Housing Corporation tries to avoid winter evictions, but must deal with millions in rent arrears

Ragilee Kopalie was evicted from her public housing unit on Dec. 7, along with her daughter, her daughter's partner and their two children. Court documents show Kopalie owes the Iqaluit Housing Authority nearly $14,000 in unpaid rent. (CBC)

Iqaluit resident Ragilee Kopalie and her family are now homeless in winter after being evicted from public housing earlier this month, and that's got some people questioning whether evictions in cold weather should be allowed.

"I don't know where I am going to go stay," said Kopalie.

Kopalie lived in her public housing unit in Iqaluit for more than nine years, but on Dec. 7, along with her daughter, her daughter's partner and their two children, she was evicted.

"It's better when they kick people out when it's summer," she said. "It's very cold outside and it's too hurtful to my heart."

Kopalie and her family have been staying with relatives since the eviction.

Court documents show Kopalie owes the Iqaluit Housing Authority nearly $14,000 in unpaid rent. They also show that the housing authority tried for years to work with Kopalie to clear her arrears. Those efforts failed, leading to the December eviction.

Winter evictions don't sit well with many Nunavummiut, including Iqaluit-Niaqunnguu MLA Pat Angnakak.

"I, like a lot of people, thought they didn't happen," she said. "But I've done some research and found that is not true."

There is no law prohibiting winter evictions. In fact, the only seasonal exception in Nunavut's Residential Tenancies Act is for renters living in mobile homes.

Nunavut Housing Corporation president Terry Audla says the corporation is grappling with as much as $35 million in rental arrears across the territory. (CBC)

Officials at the Nunavut Housing Corporation, which provides policy direction to local housing authorities, say they try to avoid winter evictions when possible.

NHC president Terry Audla says the corporation is grappling with as much as $35 million in rental arrears.

"We are constantly reaching out to tenants that are in arrears but when we are not having any contact back from the tenant then some action needs to be taken," said Audla.

Rent in public housing is heavily subsidized and scaled to a tenant's income. Because of this, Audla says the burden of rent is not overwhelming and should be paid.

"We have many people who are on the waiting list that are more than willing to partake in the process of paying their rent," he said.