PLP wants Govt to clarify its plans on property ownership rules
The Opposition Progressive Labour Party yesterday called on Government to clarify its plans to review policy on the ownership of property by non-Bermudian spouses of Bermudians.
A statement issued by the PLP's Shadow Home Affairs Minister Walter Roban and Senator Marc Daniels said that the party would not support policy that threatens the opportunity for Bermudians to acquire property.
The pair were responding to a statement by Home Affairs Minister Senator Michael Fahy who has pledged to undertake “a thorough and measured review” of the law affecting Bermudians married to foreigners.
The former Government had rolled back part of the controversial amendment to the Immigration and Protection Act — which forced mixed status couples to obtain a licence for the purchase of their own homes.
However, such couples will still require approval to buy a second home — something that One Bermuda Alliance MP Shawn Crockwell blasted in July as “fundamentally unfair”.
Asked what the OBA plans to do about the policy now it is in power, Sen Fahy issued a statement saying: “We recognise that this is an issue that touches on considerable sensitivities in our community.
“The public is aware that I have been very vocal about this matter, and I am committed to sitting down and undertaking a thorough and measured review of the current policy.”
He went on to say that while there are numerous items on the Government's agenda which are an immediate priority, the policy will receive early attention and legislative amendments may follow based on the outcome of the review.
The Opposition statement reads: “The previous government had already amended its original policy to allow non-Bermudian spouses to acquire Bermuda land with their Bermuda spouse without the requirement of a licence.
“The change in policy was done to ensure that Bermudians with non-Bermudian spouses were not unduly delayed or handicapped in their legitimate quest to own a home in their chosen domicile.
“Despite the Minister's comments for a 'measured and thorough review' of the existing policy we will take issue with any changes that risk the opportunity of future generations of Bermudians to acquire property.”
It continued: “The policy and legislation regarding foreign ownership of Bermuda land was established by the Progressive Labour Party to combat 'fronting', an illegal practice which allowed non Bermudians (with the aid of Bermudians) to inappropriately acquire property, risking the future availability of real estate to Bermudians.
“We agree that there must be 'sensitivities' to the views of the majority of citizens who saw this as a needed protection of their right to acquire just one home in their country.
“This is a fundamental right which must be preserved and not compromised by those who have the means to acquire multiple properties in Bermuda and other jurisdiction.”
And the PLP called on the Minister to specify the policy changes they plan to make, explain how they will protect against the practice of fronting and protect the rights of future generations of Bermudians to acquire property.
“The government has yet to make a statement on these crucial areas of policy. The PLP supports a balanced approach to this particular issue and as government worked to achieve that balance.”
In a statement the Minister of Home Affairs, Senator Michael Fahy, said: "I have always been against fronting as has the One Bermuda Alliance.
"I think it bears reminding that this Government has repeatedly said that it will work to protect the interests of all Bermudians and we have not wavered from that position.
"This statement from the PLP is a scaremongering statement - nothing more - and that is unfortunate.
"I confirmed earlier this week, that we will review the policy and when we are completed that review we will make the appropriate announcement."