People and companies with existing public land leases in the NWT won’t have to pay rent this financial year, lands minister Shane Thompson announced on Monday.
Acknowledging the Covid-19 pandemic had “created new and very real economic stress,” the NWT government said the initiative would collectively save residents and businesses $2.7 million – $1.4 million of which provides relief to mines.
Rent for 2020-21 is being waived on all “recreational, residential, and commercial and mining surface dispositions on public land,” the territory said.
Almost all of those surface dispositions are leases. The NWT government said other types, like easements and licences of occupation, are also eligible.
Alongside residential leaseholders, businesses standing to benefit from the rent waiver include diamond mines, fuel and trucking companies, tour operators, outfitters, and lodges.
The NWT estimates residents will keep a total of around $500,000 through the measure, the Department of Lands’ Blair Chapman said at a news conference on Monday.
Recreational leaseholders will save $350,000, $1.4 million will be saved by the mining industry, and $450,000 will be kept by smaller businesses with commercial leases.
The rent relief is backdated to April 1, 2020 and will last until March 31, 2021. It doesn’t apply to new lease applications received after April 1, 2020.
“If you have already paid rent that was due during this period and your account is in good standing, your payment will automatically be refunded,” the territorial government said in a news release. That’s expected to happen later this month.
Thompson said he hoped the announcement would let residents “keep cash available for immediate needs in this time of uncertainty.”
The minister said residents and businesses had reached out for assistance from the department. “This is how we felt we were able to help,” he said.
Thompson continued: “It took us a little while because we had to make sure we could do it properly within the parameters of what our policies are.”
Emily Blake contributed reporting.