The twin ACT government schemes designed to entice landlords to reduce their tenants' rent amid the COVID-19 crisis is set to end up tens of millions of dollars under budget due to low demand.
The government's residential rate rebate program is on track to cost less than $1.5 million, a fraction of the $39 million that was originally budgeted.
The Barr government is now looking to use the leftover funds to further extend its public sector employment and suburban infrastructure programs, as it maintained it was committed to spending the $350 million in economic support promised at the height of the crisis.
The ACT Property Council said a lack of awareness among commercial landlords about the scheme might have contributed to the low take-up.
The offer of rate rebates to residential and commercial landlords who agreed to reduce their tenants' rent was a key measure in the government's second coronavirus rescue package, which was announced in early April.
The two schemes were projected to cost the territory a combined $64 million in forgone revenue, although the final amount was always contingent on the number of applicants.
While the government could not provide updated figures on the expected costs of the schemes, a basic analysis of the number of applications received so far shows they are running dramatically under budget.
As of June 12, the revenue office had received 522 applications from residential landlords, almost 300 of which have been approved.
With assistance capped at $2600, the scheme would only cost $1.3 million if every applicant received the maximum rebate.
A total of 222 commercial landlords have applied for rebates since the process opened on May 12.
It is harder to estimate the cost of the commercial rates program because there is no hard cap on the amount that can be handed back to landlords of buildings valued above $2 million.
Landlords of buildings valued below that threshold, which is more than 90 per cent of commercial properties in the ACT, can apply for rebates of up to $16,000, depending on how significantly their tenants have been affected by the COVID-19 shutdown.
If all current applicants receive the $16,000 rebate, the scheme would cost about $3.5 million - some $21.5 million under budget.
Landlords can still lodge applications, meaning the cost to government will likely increase.
But the government has acknowledged the programs will "likely" not cost as much as originally forecast.
An ACT government spokeswoman said it would not wind up the schemes early. Nor would the government be banking the leftover money, the spokeswoman said.
She said the money would be redirected to other areas, which could result in a further expansion of the Jobs for Canberrans employment program and extra funds to fast-track suburban infrastructure projects.
That would come on top of the combined $18 million boost to the two programs announced last week.
The Canberra Times reported earlier this year that residential landlords were reluctant to sign up to the rate rebate scheme amid concerns it might affect their insurance coverage.
ACT Property Council executive director Adina Cirson, who sits on a committee advising the government on the commercial landlord program, said there had been concerns about the low number of applications.
Ms Cirson said it appeared that some owners of properties valued above $2 million didn't realise they were eligible for rebates, an issue that has since been raised with the government.
She said some of her members had described the application process as onerous. She noted that all owners of properties valued below $2 million had received a fixed rebate of $2622, which would have helped to ease the immediate financial pressure.
"Perhaps people who might be eligible for the rates relief, given the other pressures on their business, might not feel like it is worth the effort to apply," she said.
"But it might just be a case that they just haven't got around to it yet."