Hey you. Want a cabin? There could be another draw soon.
The lottery system occasionally used to award batches of cabin leases around Yellowknife appears set to make a return within the next year.
Hundreds of cabins occupy existing leases on lakes along the Ingraham Trail north of the city, but the NWT government has placed a freeze on new leases for most of the past decade.
The territory, wary of ongoing land claims negotiations in Akaitcho territory, says that moratorium is because of the “many different users and competing land interests” that must be resolved.
Despite that, in 2015 the GNWT used a lottery system to essentially give away 22 lots suitable for cabins on lakes outside Yellowknife. There were 913 entrants, each paying $100 to register for the chance to win a lot.
On Friday this week, Yellowknife North MLA Rylund Johnson – whose electoral district includes the Ingraham Trail – told the legislature the prospect of building a cabin remains as overwhelmingly popular as it was in 2015.
“There is insatiable demand for cabins in the Yellowknife periphery area,” Johnson said.
He argues the GNWT’s freeze on new leases – there have been none since the lottery seven years ago – has primarily resulted in exorbitant hikes to the prices of existing cabins.
“We are now seeing what should be $50,000 cabins sell for $250,000. We’ve artificially inflated the land value and prevented a construction boom,” he said.
“Getting one of those leases was like putting $100,000 in your pocket.”
Johnson thinks now is the time for a new lease lottery. Speaking to Cabin Radio, he said the GNWT ought to be able to negotiate with Indigenous governments to finalize land claims and agree on a number of new cabin leases at the same time. He said inaction on both fronts would be “the worst outcome.”
“If we want an economic driver, let’s get people some cabins,” Johnson told the legislature. “If we want people to stay in the North … let’s get them some cabins.
“This is a great retention tool. Let’s do it properly, let’s consult with residents and Indigenous governments. I know many people, including myself, will buy a ticket.”
Johnson may get his wish.
While lands minister Shane Thompson sounded initially reluctant, he ultimately told the Yellowknife North MLA he hopes to run a fresh lottery before this government’s time is up in fall 2023.
“I need to really stress this, we are working with Indigenous governments to understand their interests in this area,” Thompson said.
“I’m aware there is a strong public demand for recreational-type leases outside Yellowknife, particularly along the Ingraham Trail. Hopefully a ballot draw will be possible within the life of this assembly, but I want to do it right and ensure we take a respectful approach … with land and self-government agreement negotiations ongoing.
“We are working through a process and will hopefully have it done by the end of this assembly.”