Anyone wanting to buy property on Corsica will have to have lived there for five years under proposals approved Friday by the French Mediterranean island's assembly.
A proposal which supporters say is essential to prevent indigenous islanders being priced out of their homeland was approved 29-18 with four abstentions in a vote at the left-dominated regional assembly whose extensive powers include housing policy. The bill must still be approved by the French parliament.
The proposal was initiated by the chairman of the island's executive committee, Paul Giacobbi, who said it was designed to counter those inclined to invest speculatively in the largely unspoiled island's property sector.
“It’s time we had some kind of regulation and asking people to live here for a certain amount of time before they are allowed to buy a property is a good way to do it and a very good way of ending property speculation in Corsica," Giacobbi told The Local previously. “I am not against foreigners. My family and wife come from abroad. Corsica is a land that welcomes foreigners.
Around 40 percent of properties on Corsica are second homes owned by people living off the island. The island currently has a population of 310,000, a majority of whom are incomers, and the number of residents is growing at a rate of 4,000-5,000 a year.
That trend, coupled with Corsica's outstanding natural beauty, has fuelled a strong demand for land for development and the money to be made from it is said to be a factor in the feuding between criminal gangs which have given the island a very high murder rate.
There have been more than 40 assassination-style killings on the island since the start of 2012.
Under the proposal approved on Friday, Corsicans living and working away from the island will be exempted from the residency requirement.
"This provision is key, it confirms the link between the Corsican people and their land," said Gilles Simeoni, the mayor of the port city of Bastia who heads an 11-member group of moderate nationalists in the assembly.
The proposal is subject to approval by France's parliament and may also face challenges in the French courts or through the European Court of Justice from those who view it as discriminatory, prejudicial to their economic interests or contrary to the principles of the free movement of people within the European Union.
Restrictions on second home ownership are not unprecedented in the EU however. Denmark notably has strict rules governing who can buy holiday homes on parts of its coastline which are widely regarded as being designed to prevent the areas from being overrun by second home owners from neighbouring Germany.