Housing trust lacks policy direction

| 30/03/2015 | 13 Comments
Cayman News Service

Old affordable home in West Bay

(CNS): The General Manager of the National Housing Development Trust, Julio Ramos, has revealed that there are no real plans or directions in place to deal with the numerous problems now facing the affordable housing initiative. From 23 families in West Bay living in condemned properties with nowhere else to go to new homes that cannot be occupied because of legal arguments over encroachment and access rights, the NHDT is facing a catalog of difficulties and few solutions, the Public Accounts Committee heard last week.

The government entity is struggling to fulfill its original mandate of building low-cost homes that ordinary people can afford to buy, and Ramos told the PAC that many of the new houses built in East End and Bodden Town remain empty, not just because of various legal disputes but also because prospective tenants for the homes cannot get financing for the newer hurricane- and building-compliant homes because of the much heftier price tag.

Although owners of the old homes, which were condemned, who were in good standing with their mortgages were transferred to the new replacement houses, it is more difficult for new prospective buyers to find the deposits that the banks require, Ramos told the PAC last week, as he explained why around 18 of the new completed homes are unoccupied. He pointed out that while some people can access their pensions for the down-payment, this is not so for government workers.

Another major problem for the NHDT is the demolition of the remaining condemned homes on the Apple Blossom site in West Bay and Courts Road in George Town, as the families in those home are not in good standing, with many having defaulted on their mortgages for years.

He said that with the exception of emergency maintenance, where the problems pose an imminent danger to the tenants, the houses are no longer being repaired but the government continues to pay insurance for the remaining houses.

Although reviews were undertaken last year with the help of Children and Family Services, nothing has been done to address the situation with these families, who will be homeless once they are turfed out of what Ramos said were unsafe houses.

The original goal of the NHDT was to build low-cost homes that ordinary local people could afford and use the proceeds of the sales to reinvest in more homes, encouraging people on low incomes to invest in a home of their own. However, the original low-cost model from Cuba, which were developed by the former UDP housing minister Frank McField in 2003 and 2004, were stopped when it was revealed that the homes did not meet the higher hurricane standards imposed on development post-Hurricane Ivan.

Gradually the properties fell into greater disrepair and during the PPM 2005-2009 administration the government abandoned the project and focused on assisted mortgage schemes and build-your-own-home initiatives. When the UDP returned to power the initiative was rejuvenated under the Ministry of Community Affairs led by Mike Adam and championed by the then UDP backbencher, Ellio Solomon.

However, the new homes were considerably more expensive, pricing many people out of the market. In addition, the project was faced with the problem of defaulting owners who were not in good standing with either rent to buy schemes or mortgages.

Last week Ramos said there were 23 families occupying old homes who are not in good standing and all of which are facing significant social problems, where general maintenance has been discontinued and all the tenants have been given notice. He warned that homes are not safe, and with another hurricane season around the corner, the NHDT is now waiting for some directive from government on what to do with the people still living in the houses.

“If we evict them, they will still be at government’s door,” he said, as he pointed out the simple dilemma.

Asked if the NHDT would ever be sustainable without major cash injections from government, he said the Trust was waiting for government to decide on its policy towards the initiative. He said the NHDT was doing what it could with what it had but there was no real plan or directive in place anymore.

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Category: Government oversight, Local News, Politics

Comments (13)

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  1. cathy Better says:

    It’s nice to want to help the poor. And it’s nice to want to try and give them homes they can afford. But it’s a pipe dream, to think the poor could ever afford homes.

    If they could afford homes, they wouldn’t be deemed poor in the first place. What do the decision makers not understand about the word poor.

    How do you help the poor afford a home they obviously cannot afford.

    And what are the odds these poor would have good credit ratings?

    The thinkers or Idea makers, were really trying to find that needle in the hay stack. Looking for a poor person, who has a few thousand dollars laying around, enough money to afford the deposit on a home, and has a good credit rating.

    Shakes head.

    • Sharkey says:

      I must agree that the whole Cayman Islands Government is most irresponsible, inconsiderate and negligent . I wonder if the Government realize that these people living in these hurricane damaged homes , that mold could also be inside the home’s. I wonder if these homes were insured .

  2. Anonymous says:

    Good old Cayman, where the public expenditure per person is similar to Canada, that has to pay for an Army, a Navy and Airforce, free healthcare and schooling, where Cayman has no of those bills and half the population have to pay for their childrens’ schooling. And they is still no social safety net.

    So where is all Cayman’s money going? has corruption and waste of public funds really gotten this bad? and yet the radio waves are always about the expats.

    They say you get the government you deserve, is that correct Cayman?

    • Anonymous says:

      Ouch that hurt but unfortunately its is very true. I can tell you one thing for sure, it is not the poor in Cayman who are benefiting and the lack of a safety net is why these islands have such a disaffected youth.

    • boy u fool says:

      Wow I hope nobody believes your BS! your comments are designed to make the Govt look bad, but they are baseless ! Canada hs income tax and we do not- that is the difference.

      • Anonymous says:

        we may not have income tax, but we are one of the highest “taxed” countries in the world. You may not see it on your shopping bill in sales tax, nor will you see it on your monthy pay slip, but we do pay tax and through the roof. So this comment is not baseless, it states one true question – where is all Cayman’s money going?

      • Anonymous says:

        Income tax is a way to redistribute wealth and provide a safety net for those less fortunate. Tell me when you get to the pearly gates, will you be boasting how wonderful Cayman was for its poor?

      • Anonymous says:

        Income tax is about government getting money, the discussion is about that Cayman government spends as much as Canada per person, but yet has far less expenses and still has no safety net for the unfortunate. So all that money is going somewhere just not to those who need it. It’s wasted on needless lawsuits, perks for a few and the highest paid government ministers in any democracy in the world.

  3. Anonymous says:

    What disgrace. Never seen people waste money like the Cayman Islands Government and no good MLA’s.

    And we are the sorry sobs paying the double-dippers to live lavishly and they can’t even return in kind, damn S.O.B.’s.

  4. SSM345 says:

    Typical MO it seems for The Cayman Islands Government, shoot first so it looks like we have done something (without thinking of any potential consequences) because it will be another Administration or someone else who has to deal with the problems at a later date.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Here in Cayman we have a particular problem of not seeing things through, of knee jerk reactions to problems, lack of sustainability etc. This article just proves that.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Two words. Non Functional. Is that what soon comes really means?

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