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IRAC to review P.E.I. land ownership

Rustico-Emerald MLA Brad Trivers is shown prior to a recent session in the provincial legislature.
Rustico-Emerald MLA Brad Trivers is shown prior to a recent session in the provincial legislature. - Ryan Ross

Who is buying land in P.E.I. will be getting a closer look after a request for the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission to do a review of property ownership.

In an interview with The Guardian, Communities, Land and Environment Minister Richard Brown said he has asked IRAC to review land transactions along with how much corporations and non-residents own.

“There is a concern out there,” he said.

Under the Lands Protection Act, no individual can own more than 1,000 acres and no corporation can own more than 3,000 acres.

The act also sets out rules for non-residents, including that they need cabinet approval to buy more than five acres of land or any property that has more than 165 feet of shoreline.

Brown said the act is a good piece of legislation to protect the land and keep it in Islanders’ hands as much as possible.

“I just want an update on what the status of that is,” he said.

Rustico-Emerald MLA Brad Trivers said he has concerns about non-residents owning land for speculative reasons.

“Really we want to make sure that we don’t end up in a situation where we’ve got absentee landlords again. That’s sort of the worst-case scenario down the road,” he said.

Trivers said it’s good to hear Brown talk about getting IRAC to do a review to make sure non-resident and corporate land ownership is meeting the requirements of the act.

But, Trivers said he also sees a potential issue with purchases of fewer than five acres by non-residents, which don’t need cabinet approval.

That’s why he said he’s asking for a review of the Lands Protection Act to make sure the rules are sufficient and to avoid ending up with a situation that other parts of the country are facing with skyrocketing land prices.

“We need to do that now. Don’t wait until the problem’s already there,” Trivers said.

Brown said it may be time to look at the land ownership rules, but that’s why he asked IRAC to do its review.

“Let’s get the facts on the table before we start making decisions around land use in P.E.I.,” he said.

Along with the review, Brown said he has asked his department to see about releasing an open data set about land ownership to Islanders.

“It’s time to allow Islanders to take an aggregate data set and see what kind of trends or activities they can get out of it,” he said.

Brown said some jurisdictions have implemented policies to discourage real estate speculation, and that’s one of the reasons for the review.

“One thing about Islanders is that we want people to be moving here. We want people to be living here. We don’t want people speculating here,” he said.   

Ryan.ross@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/ryanrross

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