Banff residents must now offer more proof of their need to live in the national park town as part of a federal government crackdown on residency rules.
While there are no changes to the need-to-reside rules, Parks Canada officials say they have changed the way the realty office audits the eligible residency requirements.
When owners sell, mortgage or re-mortgage a property, they are required to provide concrete proof to Parks Canada the property in question is occupied by eligible residents.
Robert Elliott, Banff’s realty officer, said a statutory declaration with supporting evidence of meeting the residency requirements is required before Parks Canada will consent to the transaction.
“In the past, these statutory declarations have come in with little or no evidence, other than to say ‘I’m an eligible resident because my primary employment is in the park,’ but there’s no details,” he said.
“We now require some kind of supporting documentation. With mortgages, the banker already has all the supporting documentation and it’s easily acquired. It’s authentic and there’s our evidence right there.”
Parks Canada has met with lawyers in town to bring them up to speed on the changes to the audit process, and also gave a presentation to Banff town council last week.
All people living in national park communities must meet eligible residency requirements, which seek to allow for a broad supply of housing for those who work and raise families in the national park townsites.
The need-to-reside rules aim to ensure that residential lands are available exclusively for community use, rather than bought up for recreational or second homes.
Under the rules, a person is generally considered an eligible resident if he or she is employed or operates a business in the park; is a full-time student in the park; has retired after not less than five years of employment in a park or is a spouse or dependent of someone who meets the above criteria.
It’s important to note you do not have to be an eligible resident to own property, but under the rules, the property can only be occupied by eligible residents.
It is a criminal offense to make a false statutory declaration of eligible residency.
Elliott said Parks Canada sometimes wrestles with the definition of eligible residency, noting a section that deals with families and dependents.
“Where it talks about families, we’re also talking about changing demographics, so we are quite flexible,” he said.
“If a town resident wanted to bring a dependent parent, then as far as we’re concerned, that fits the definition.”
At last week’s Banff town council meeting, Councillor Paul Baxter asked what would happen if a leaseholder failed to provide the required documentation to prove residency.
“If they don’t provide it, we wouldn’t consent. We can’t,” said Elliott.
Baxter asked if they would be forced to sell their property.
“They would have to become eligible. They could also rent their house out to an eligible resident,” replied Elliott.
Those who don’t meet the residency requirements can ultimately have their leases cancelled.
Elliott said he believes the compliance rate on the residency rules is about 95 per cent.
“I personally think the compliance rate is high,” he said.
“There’s not very many out there contravening this section of the lease. In terms of enforcement, it’s not very difficult.”
Elliott said there are occasions where they follow up on residency requirements based on what they hear.
“If we get one that’s funny, we’ll follow up,” he said.
“There was an instance where Town of Banff brought something to our attention and we have since followed up on it.”