The B.C. government has come up with an additional $1.87 million to cover big rent increases for seasonal campgrounds, guest ranches and lodges that lease provincial Crown land to operate and are trying to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
People who reside on Crown land without a business haven’t been so lucky, and some of them are looking at rent increases as high as 300 per cent as the rents are tied to the value of the land. That is soaring in some locations, where private property assessments are rising quickly
Opposition MLAs raised the issue in the B.C. legislature March 24. The NDP government was recently criticized for extending its COVID-19 rent freeze on private properties to the end of 2021, and tightening rules for renovation of urban rental properties. The current policy is to set rent at five per cent of the property value for residential tenures, and three per cent for seasonal or recreational purposes.
B.C. Liberal MLA Jordan Sturdy said he has been corresponding with the forests and lands ministry for two years on the residential rent issue. He cited the case of a constituent whose Crown land rent jumped from $5,650 last year to as much as $19,650 this year.
Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad cited another case in Sturdy’s constituency of West Vancouver-Sea to Sky, where a single mother in the Cheakamus Valley has been billed for an 86 per cent increase for rent on property her family has lived on for generations.
Forests Minister Katrine Conroy said the rent is tied to land value assessment, which is jumping up in some areas based on private property sales, and the ministry is looking into it. “The ministry is commissioning an appraisal to determine the market rent for their tenures and advise that the ministry is working with other agencies to resolve other issues raised,” the ministry said in a statement to Black Press April 1.
Meanwhile, this week some of the seasonal and recreational users got a break.
Conroy announced March 30: “Our government has identified another 438 commercial recreational operators that are eligible for rent forgiveness as part of this initiative,” she said, identifying hunting and fishing lodges, seasonal campgrounds and other commercial recreation operators.
Some of the leases are through the environment and parks ministry, which overlaps with forests and lands in wildlife management and other functions. Premier John Horgan has ordered ministers to create a new ministry of lands to sort out the situation.
The total rent forgiveness program now amounts to $3.23 million for 1,473 tenures and permits, 990 of which are Land Act tenures. The other 483 are Park Act permits to operate on Crown land.