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Give refunds to people who bought land licences, Fahy tells senate

Bermudians made to purchase land licences should be given a refund, according to Opposition Senator Michael Fahy.

But while the Senator said scheme was discriminatory and harmful to the real estate industry, Senator David Burt denied both claims, saying the legislation was meant to prevent fronting and inflation in the housing market.

The controversial land licencing legislation, established in 2007, requires Bermudians married to non-Bermudians to purchase a $1,375 land licence in order to purchase property.

During Motion to Adjourn yesterday, Senator Fahy said he while fully supported the stated intent of the legislation to prevent the practice of fronting, he called the implementation “discriminatory and wrong.”

“I’m married to a non-Bermudian. I have three Bermudian children,” Sen Fahy said. “Falling in love with a non-Bermudian has cost me $4,000.

“Government said that it did this to prevent fronting, and it may have done so, but what it did do was make a mockery of good governance.”

The Senator said that throughout the legislative process the opposition warned that the scheme would have unintended consequences, including both discriminatory treatment for Bermudians married to non-Bermudians and hurting the real estate market.

“It prevented Bermudians form in investing in their country. It was wrong and it continues to be wrong,” he said.

While he said Government was right to reverse the scheme, Sen Burt said Government had reviewed the scheme, not reversed it.

He further denied that the scheme had the unintended consequence of slowing down the real estate market, saying that while some people have had difficulty buying second or third homes, others have been in a better position to buy a first home.

“When property prices modulate, it gives people an opportunity to get into the property market,” Sen Burt said. “There have been many people who have been able to buy homes.

“The needs for all people must be balanced.”

The Senator also noted that he himself is engaged to a non-Bermudian, saying: “It’s not just OBA members who fall in love with non-Bermudians.”

Since 2007, a total of 955 licences were obtained by Bermudians married to non-Bermudians, netting a total of $1.3 million for the Consolidated Fund.

National Security Minister announced last month that amendments to the law would be coming forward, allowing married couples where one spouse is Bermudian to buy one home. Subsequent homes would still require a licence.

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Published March 01, 2012 at 8:52 am (Updated March 01, 2012 at 8:52 am)

Give refunds to people who bought land licences, Fahy tells senate

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