Roll back of land licence rule is approved
A law requiring Bermudians married to non-Bermudians to purchase a licence before buying property has been rolled back by Senators.
While such couples will not require a licence to purchase their first home, as was necessary under the controversial law, they will still need licences to purchase additional properties.
OBA Senator Michael Fahy said yesterday the amendments were an improvement, but the law remained unfair as it discriminates in a way against Bermudians who fall in love with non-Bermudians.
I still see discrimination against Bermudians, Sen Fahy said. I still think we need to go a little bit further. Im just not sure why theres this restriction.
The mistake continues because if a married couple want to buy a second home, they require a licence based on a code of conduct we havent seen.
Passing the legislation in the Senate, Senator Jonathan Smith said that the original law was introduced to combat the issue of fronting, which allowed non-Bermudians to circumvent property regulations.
As a result of fronting, land left Bermudian hands and property values rose beyond what many Bermudians could pay.
He said the legislation would also increase the limit of local property that can be held by non-Bermudians to 2,500 acres.
The limit had been set at 2,000 acres, but in reality 2,344 acres is already owned by non-Bermudians. The new figure, Sen Smith said, would account for that and provide room for new hotel developments such as Park Hyatt and Morgans Point.
A Code of Practice, intended to guide Ministers on the practical application of the law, will also be created.
Independent Senator Joan Dillas-Wright stressed the need to protect Bermudian land for the sake of Bermudians, saying: Even if people are in a position where they can purchase more than one property, it behoves the government to exercise some control.
Independent Senator James Jardine agreed that it was important to protect land for Bermudians, noting that the amount of open space around the Island had fallen.
Government Senator Vince Ingham said that Government was right to tackle the issue of fronting, saying that land is a precious commodity for Bermudians.
It was important to act, and act we did, Sen Ingham said. What I like about this amendment is it not only addresses an issue that has been raised, but it also has a forward looking view in the terms of allowing future development.
Senator David Burt agreed, stressing that the original intent of the legislation was to help Bermudians, describing the amendments as a recalibration.
At the time the average property value was $1.6 million. This is something that just seems out of reach for most Bermudians, he said.
Many young Bermudians have been able to enter the housing market, some on a single income.
OBA Senator Michael Dunkley noted that while Sen Fahy had to purchase a licence to buy a home with his wife, Sen Burt will not have to when he is married next month, joking: Timing is everything in life.
Sen Dunkley said he supported the amendment, but criticised the time it took the Government to make the move.
Sen Dunkley said: There are people who will be pleased by the policy thats coming today, but there are others who will say: This didnt help me in any way.
Responding to the comments, Sen Smith said the matter is a difficult one to legislate, noting that in the case of a divorce properties could easily slide into foreign hands.
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