Opinion: Immigration & Protection Amendment

June 1, 2015

[Opinion column written by Junior Minister of Home Affairs Sylvan Richards]

For seven long years, Bermudians have been struggling with our own great recession. One area that has been particularly hard hit is the property market – both hotels and residential – which have suffered from slack demand and falling values. Many Bermudian homeowners owe more on their houses than what they can sell them for. Condo owners have been particularly hard hit.

The Immigration and Protection Amendment Act passed in the House of Assembly on Friday aims to encourage hotel development and boost the property market by liberalizing restrictions whilst ensuring Bermudians are not unfairly disadvantaged.

What the Bill does not do is change the overall acreage of land in Bermuda that may be held by non-Bermudians which will remain at 2500.

Whilst the Opposition have done their utmost to spin this Bill into something negative, this is a positive move for economic growth and job creation.

The highlights of the Bill are as follows:

  • The Annual Rental Value [ARV] has been lowered from $177k to $153k for house purchases for non-Bermudians and non-PRC holders. The lower level was put in place by the former Government, before being raised in June 2012. An ARV of $153,000 equates to a home value of approximately $2.5 million. The Bill will also allow non-Bermudians and non PRC holders to purchase condos with a minimum ARV of $32,400 or higher. The total number of properties they can purchase, whether residential unit or condo, will be capped at two.
  • PRC holders can now purchase homes or condos of any ARV. The total number of properties they can purchase will also be capped at two, and they will still pay the land-holding charge for a licence, currently 4% of the property value and rising to 6% on September 30. PRC holders cannot purchase in developments where there has been government assistance.
  • The Bill will lift the current restrictions on time periods that buyers of fractionals and other tourist accommodation can stay in those units in any one calendar year, but they will still be subject to immigration control in that they will be required to seek residential certificates from the Department of Immigration.
  • The Bill will allow the Minister to ‎extend time for estate representatives to deal with probate matters under exceptional circumstances.
  • The Bill will remove parish restrictions on acreage ‎held by non-Bermudians but will keep the cap island wide of 2500 acres. The level was raised to 2,500 from 2,000 by the former Government. PRC purchases will remain in the acreage count. Non-Bermudians currently own 2,003 acres of residential property and 171 acres are attributable to designated condominiums [where at least one unit in each is owned by a non-Bermudian].

The government carried out extensive consultation before making amendments to this Act. While many recommendations were regarded as acceptable and in keeping with government’s overall policy thrust, some of the changes suggested would, in the government’s view, have the unintended consequence of removing protections offered by the anti-fronting provisions brought in by the previous government in 2007. We have made every effort to ensure that the intent of the anti-fronting provisions is maintained.

The economic benefits of this Bill are clear. The sale of a properties to non-Bermudians provides government revenue from the stamp duty on the purchase, land-holding charge on the property and the licence application fee. These transactions also provide opportunities in the banking, legal, realtor and construction sectors.

As industry stakeholders have reported, when high net worth, non-Bermudian purchasers acquire property in Bermuda, they typically expend considerable funds renovating the property and, in some cases, the renovation costs have matched or exceeded the initial purchase price.

This contributes to an economic multiplier effect with increased Government revenue from import duties and payroll tax on construction, landscaping and housekeeping workers. More jobs and more money circulating within the local economy is the result.

This Bill is good for Bermuda and Bermudians.

The opposition are using a playbook that seeks to confuse the public by blurring the lines between truth and fiction. As a former PLP Premier recently wrote in an open letter to an OBA Senator, the opposition must engage in: “… a sustained program of information, disinformation and criticism,” which he considers an acceptable strategy for the PLP to take back the Government.

A sustained program of disinformation? Is this what the electorate expects from our elected officials?

The record shows that since the OBA became the Government, property sales and planning applications have increased and the market outlook is positive. Investments are being made in hotels and new residents are renting homes. This Bill aims to provide further stimulus to continue this trend.

This Government is working to nourish the green-shoots of recovery that are growing from St. George’s to Somerset. We are working to empower Bermudians and will not be swayed by political partisanship while we focus on moving Bermuda forward.

- Sylvan Richards

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Comments (37)

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  1. watching says:

    Anyone who heard the good Junior Minister of Home affairs struggle through reading this bill in the House should know that there is no way he authored this column.

    • Yet another PLP conspiracy theory says:

      Please stop it. Minister Richards is a well versed, well educated man very capable of out writing the likes of you. Time to get life you’ve been missing out on.

    • Rich says:

      With all due respect, having heard him on Friday night I can say he was very much on the ball and put in a good performance. There were a couple of questions which were admittedly very technical and he didn’t have the immediate answers to. Nonetheless, he acquitted himself very well on Friday night.

    • Mockingjay says:

      Good Surrogate

    • Good Morning Sylvan says:

      Sylvan I’m going to ask you something….. Did you ever find out why they removed you as a Minister? I wouldn’t repeat the words I was told all I can say it was pretty sad. These fools in the OBA will say anything nice to you and smile in your face for your support. I’m going to tell you something you already know don’t trust them brother and please stop being their puppet. They would rather give you orders then receive your orders.

  2. Huh says:

    There you have it…former PLP Premier recently wrote in an open letter to an OBA Senator, the opposition must engage in: “… a sustained program of information, disinformation and criticism,”

    • Kangoocar says:

      Pretty pathetic isn’t it??? The plp make the mess, and then continue to get in the way of the cleanup??? It is there for all to see, the agenda of the plp is to re elected at all costs and to heck with all those they made unemployed and hungry!!! the sad part is, the vast majority of those they made unemployed and hungry still continue to support them??? Now that is why I always say, YOU CANT FIX STUPID!!!!!!

  3. Ian says:

    Unlike the mindless numpties that actually buy that crap about PLP victory = economic apocolypse, I’m actually not a complete idiot. From investors to workers, people that come to this country eventually find themselves anti-PLP because of the BS people like you feed them. Spreading a message that “the PLP and its supporters hate you” and then expecting people to feel confident investing here whilst believing the next election could bring in the Boogey man. The PLP would be just as accomodating to business as any other Bermuda Government. And IB experienced that first hand when folks made money hand over fist pre 2008. Ironically enough those same folks were typically the ones the OBA draws its support from… The OBA has done nothing nor proposed anything effective in generating jobs, creating new sectors and paying down debt. Their philosophy on EVERYTHING starts with giving the well-to-dos here (who by their very nature feel entitled to more and more) everything on their wish list. These are the folks who not just wish to make out like bandits on their bloated corporate comp packages, but also want access to the right to have a larger chunk of the Bermuda business pie, access to our entire real estate market and access to the vote IN MY COUNTRY. And somehow, for the OBA, accomodating these people is spun repeatedly in the context of how it “benefits Bermudians”. You people are full of crap the way you tack that line on to everything as if playing pin the tail on a donkey/a**. I have watched you exploit legislation to give PRCs the voting right. I have watched you remove parish level caps for foreign ownership of land ESSENTIALLY GIVING YOUR MONEY FRIENDS ACCESS TO ALL OF THE BEST REAL ESTATE IN MY COUNTRY (notice their emphasis on “doesnt change overall acerage available to foreigners”). I have watched you force the average Bermudian to compete for home ownership with folks that have thrived here on housing allowances for YEARS! I have watched you devise all sorts of ways to create PRCs so those REAL Bermudians have to increasingly compete harder for a home IN THEIR COUNTRY. And we all know for a fact you snakes are pushing as hard as you can to crank out as many PRCs and status holders as possible over the next few years. All with little to no priority given to the concerns of the average Bermudian. And you somehow think it wont back fire. The OBA has created an environment that is more divided than its been in a looooong time.

    • impressive. says:

      Slam Dunk,, Well written.. I concur.. You forgot to mention, don’t dear criticize the current Government, they are beyond critical evaluation. If you object to anything they say, you are interrupting their work of fixes all the problems of the past administration.

    • Kangoocar says:

      In my eyes Ian you are a complete idiot!! When you finally learn these two things and apply them to your thought process I might think differently!!! First, you need to finally understand the fact that the $$ BDA are worth nothing anywhere else in the world, so all your BS about giving away BDA land to foreigners is app solute nonsense!!! Our land is worth NOTHING if we don’t have foreign money/people here!!! Secondly, when you actually start a business from scratch and make it successful to the point that you actually have to pay employees every week and honor your own obligations, then I might actually give you some respect?? Until then you are just another tid bit plp supporter that actually has no clue as to why your plp plundered us into the mess we find ourselves in, and you nonsense posts, proves my point!!!!

      • Ian says:

        Go back and read your rant and ask yourself why I should take you any more seriously than a child throwing a tantrum.

        With love,

        Ian

    • Come Correct says:

      Pretty sure you just typed more words than the article itself and I didn’t make it past the first 3 sentences since everything is based off groundless speculation. I doubt the rest had any value. I’ll finish there, I’m not into mindless sermons.

      • Ian says:

        Suit yourself… Guess that makes you like the OBA. Dont listen to much Bermudians have to say.

  4. Alvin Williams says:

    Making it easy to sell off Bermudian land and housing in this very small country in no way is going to preserve the future for our children. This is one more example of the OBA government’s plan to create a Bermuda without the Bermudian.

    • Alvin, read everything and not just the,”kibbles & bits”…
      “The Bill will remove parish restrictions on acreage ‎held by non-Bermudians but will keep the cap island wide of 2500 acres. The level was raised to 2,500 from 2,000 by the former Government. PRC purchases will remain in the acreage count. Non-Bermudians currently own 2,003 acres of residential property and 171 acres are attributable to designated condominiums [where at least one unit in each is owned by a non-Bermudian].”
      Now I hope you and others acknowledge who’d raised to amount of property that can be purchased by “foreigners”…

      • Ian says:

        Its funny how people like Raymond dont recognize how removing parish caps essentially gives people who thrive on compensation packages Bermudians dont get (even for doing the same job at times) access to LITERALLY ALL OF THE BEST REAL ESTATE ON THE ISLAND. They will have first access to basically all of the beachfront/oceanside and best neighborhoods on the island.And they will have first access because the OBA determined it is fair to give people who have thrived for years on housing allowances the same rights to purchase land in this country that is afforded to its actual countrymen and women. They are essentially perpetuating the existence of the status quo here wherby Bermuda still features neighborhoods that are all-white, inhabited by PRCs and first generation “status holders” (not Bermudians). OBA’ers use rationale that starts with the presumption that the folks they’re are trying to feed their BS to are complete idiots…

        • Come Correct says:

          I made it to your all caps bit. You could have bought a grand atlantic failure ocean side condo…but you didn’t. Why? You believed what the oba never said?

  5. Lois Frederick says:

    The Govt. must continue with what they believe is in the best interests of Bermuda as a whole and everything they do is with that goal in mind. The opposition will continue to do whatever they feel is required to take back power. They have heard the call of “functional unity” by their notorious leader and are attempting to mobilise. For the OBA Govt. this is not time for second guessing by some within the ruling Govt. The indicators are everywhere that things are improving, albeit slowly. The plp sees it and knows it too and their noise will increase during this period, until it will be clearly revealed as a truly hollow voice.

    • Ian says:

      Love how you find it perfectly acceptable that the party you support is a sell-out to current and future generations of REAL Bermudians.

      • Coolieh says:

        What’s a real Bermudian? Didn’t we all come by boat or plane?

        • Ian says:

          You really think Im going to waste my time on the person who things everyone who shows up here on a boat or plane is a REAL Bermudian. You know exactly what I mean so stop boring me…

          • Come Correct says:

            I don’t, can you tell me? I won’t hold my breath.

      • Not exactly says:

        @Ian, I noticed how on all your comments you mention REAL Bermudians ad nauseum. Kindly define the difference between Bermudians and REAL Bermudians so that I can follow your train of thought.

        • Ian says:

          REAL Bermudians? Why dont you start with the folks whose legacies here go beyond simply being foreigners that got comfortable here living off of the likes of housing/tuition/utility/etc allowances, all while limiting their social circles to other foreigners and a handful of well-to-do white Bermudians. You know… the folks who then have the audacity to refer to REAL Bermudians (of all color) as racist or xenophobic… The OBA actions gradually redefine “REAL Bermudians” as anyone who shows up and can, at the very least, secure PRC status through their job title will they (OBA) search for ways to give them full status. The OBA looks to creat and accomdate a segment of “Bermudians” that cant even relate to Bermudians and for the most part have no desire to.

          • Jimmy says:

            Do you get the scenario where houses drop by 75% and become even less affordable to Bermudians

            • Ian says:

              Why would you ask me that?

              • Come Correct says:

                I don’t always evade questions, but when I do, it’s because they make me think critically of my political alegiance.

                Stay delusional my friends.

                • Ian says:

                  Fitting you would use a booze promo to craft your oh-so-clever remarks lol

          • Come Correct says:

            I’m Irish-Portuguese-Bermudian. Ireland island, Portuguese rock, I’m as real as they come and you are a xenophobe. By the way I believe you are referring to the legistlation passed by the plp to create more “real Bermudians”(black). It backfired. Don’t play with a double edged sword. Matter of fact, children shouldn’t play with bladed articles at all.

  6. Bda_Gentleman says:

    I understand what the OBA has been trying to do, but our ministers’ should provide all the facts! This is the reason why politicians are not trusted! This article has stated all the pros but where is the cons! I mean you state that non-Bermudians can only obtain 2500 acres, but the total residential acreage in Bermuda is only 4,900 acres. That means that non-Bermudians can own 51.02% of the residential market on our island.

    Another question that I have is how much property do we have currently on this island has an ARV of more than $153,000? Do we even have 2500 acres of residences that have an ARV of $153,000?

  7. justin says:

    Sylvan, I don’t care how you spin it but the price of houses went up the moment that legislation was passed which makes home ownership that much more difficult for people. Especially at a time when salaries and wages are flat at best while the cost of living is rising.

    • clearasmud says:

      This legislation has compounded several issues which should have been dealt with separately. I fully support giving PRCs certain rights but I have no sympathy for the real estate industry who only look out for their own interest. Many condo developers gambled on price gouging and were supported by the banks. Now that they are not able to sell their properties at inflated prices they want the rules changed.

  8. Junior Minister of Home Affairs Sylvan Richards sir, I wish to thank you once again for such a well written letter / explanation of the Immigration and Protection Amendment Act which passed in the House of Assembly on Friday. Many fail to acknowledge “life”, is like driving; we have a large window in front to see the things ahead clearly while we have a mirror to peek into from time to time to see where we’ve been as well as what maybe approaching from the rear…

    • Come Correct says:

      Anyone else hear a loud sucking noise? Get a f***in hobby man.

  9. Oh says:

    What a waste,