Housing trust struggles with building costs

| 29/06/2021 | 43 Comments
  • Cayman News Service
  • Cayman News Service
  • Cayman News Service

(CNS): With the cost of building materials rising dramatically due to worldwide shortages fuelled by the pandemic, the battle to keep the government’s low cost homes affordable is becoming very challenging, according to officials. National Housing Development Trust (NHDT) Chairman George Powell said their approved contractors have committed to complete the current works within the agreed cost, despite the rising price of construction material, but that keeping quality homes affordable is difficult.

“We are mindful that the formulated approach to maintaining cost and keeping houses affordable can be challenging,” Powell said in a press release following a recent tour of the sites by Housing Minister Jay Ebanks and Parliamentary Secretary Isaac Rankine to some of the project sites in the Eastern Districts.

Following his visit to the sites in North Side, East End and Bodden Town, Ebanks said in a release that the PACT Government “plans to empower the NHDT to increase the number of houses across districts and ensure that they build energy efficient sustainable units”.

He did not say how much more money government plans to commit to the Trust or how it will make the homes, which according to last year’s figures were costing more than $100,000 each to build, more accessible in the face of climbing construction costs. Another problem is finding enough crown land in appropriate places to meet the waiting list. According to NHDT officials, there are around 400 applicants on the list, some of whom have been waiting for as long as three years.

Ebanks hinted that government may still be depending on the private sector to supply more affordable homes to people, even though just a handful of developers have committed to lower cost housing projects.

“We want to take a multi-sector approach to address the growing housing needs across our Islands, while encouraging private developers and the banking industry to work with us to offer better options for Caymanians,” the minister said.

Project Committee Chairman Gary Berry said the Trust will be coordinating and implementing new designs for the next projects in West Bay and North Side. “We want to move away from the ideology of low income housing, which has a negative stigma. We are currently in the planning stage for further projects and want to encourage young Caymanians to stop by the National Housing Development Trust office to collect application forms and sign up,” he said.

The NHDT currently has 116 houses, all of which are occupied. So far this year, the Trust has started work on seven affordable houses in East End and three in Bodden Town. It is currently in the planning phase with earthworks as well as infrastructure preliminary works set to commence in the coming weeks at the North Side site.

But the issue of affordable homes is now critical for many Caymanians. The cost of an average home in the private sector is well beyond the reach of those earning an average salary. According figures reveal at recent construction conference, the average price for a first time buyers home is more than CI$300,000, while the national average is said to be about $1 million.

In addition, a combination of a gentrification of many communities, the introduction of Airbnb prior to the pandemic and the growth in population have all put pressure on rents, placing them out of reach for many regular workers as well. This means many people are living in insecure accommodation and homelessness, which was once almost unheard of in Cayman, is another social problem that government must face.

As dozens of luxury condos stand empty on Seven Mile Beach, the people who tend the yards and the clean the unused pools are living in cars, on the beach, in containers and in other unregulated and unsafe structures.

Speaking at the last press briefing, Finance Minister Chris Saunders pointed out that dealing with housing, especially when the borders reopen, would be a major priority. But because developers focus almost exclusively on building even more luxury condo complexes, largely for overseas owners or transient wealthy residents, there is a significant shortage of homes for local people and long-term residents.

Saunders said that when the borders open and more overseas workers add to the already significant population, the housing shortage will be even more acute.

“As we start to open back up the economy, we must consider the housing issue that we have… Many properties that are now part of the rental pool may go back to the Airbnb market… compounding the challenges we have,” he said, as he included the housing problem as one of many reasons why the government had to be cautious over the reopening of the borders.

For more information on the services of the National Housing Development Trust, visit Building E, Unit #4, Cayman Center, 118 Dorcy Drive or email nhdt@gov.ky.

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Category: development, Local News

Comments (43)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Some of the cost could be lower if the CONTRACTORS WERE NOT SO GREEDY AND CHARGE SUCH RIDUCLUS PRICES. But that’s where the problem is PPM paid friends high dollars for low cost work.

    • Anonymous says:

      ?,,,it called the free market.
      if you have proof of widespread collusion go to the police

    • Anonymous says:

      Contractors are not greedy. The problem is that clients (likely similar to yourself) have no concept of what it costs to build a house, along with the risk that contractors assume when they sign a contract. We build people their forever homes and sometimes make margins as small as 10 percent. One years work for a $million home and we may make $100k. Does that seem unreasonable? Next time you have a renovation project, price all materials yourself, pick them all up yourself, deliver them to site yourself and then install them all yourself and then you may have an idea of why contractors get paid to do the job they do.

    • Anonymous says:

      So build your own house and save the developer profit for yourself.

  2. Aanonymous says:

    Wah..between PWD and the many unemployed Caymanians, set up your own NHDT construction team!!
    Let’s build homes for each other the way we used to!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I hope the Auditor General follows this closely. There are 400 applicants that applied and have been waiting for years to get one of these homes. Jay’s assistant Archie Whittaker is handing out applications to North Siders and promising them one of the homes to be built in North Side when 400 people are waiting in line.

  4. Anonymous says:

    The problem with Cayman is the word control! Government sees it people as a resource to be managed but not one to be rewarded. Take for example the ridiculous pension programme. Self directed; no! CIG tells you that you must save and then tells you, you are not responsible enough to invest it in the manner that you see fitting.

    And, it gets better….the $40k you can take out of your pension for property investment requires you utilise a bank or other qualifying financial institution who will in essence tack on a % adding to costs.

    CIG pays to educate our young people locally and overseas, they come back or graduate and struggle to get a job and after when they have jumped through the hoops we put them in a potato sack and tell them to compete in the property market.

    Time for a reset!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Credit Union building a bunch, surely they’ll be “affordable “, no?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Just convert empty cointainers rather than building cement homes. They can be made into nice properties but just ensure they’re anchored properly.

  7. Anonymous says:

    another fine mess by the civil service….compare their record of building afordable homes to that of the private sector(frank hall homes for example).

    • Anonymous says:

      Not many Caymanians own them.

      A bigger portion than in most developments in Cayman, but no glaring majority like most developments in Cayman.

      Who owns most of them? Who do you think?

      • Roger Merren says:

        True most of these are r pr and status holders who have homes and business and money in their own coutries and some brag about it

  8. Anonymous says:

    only in cayman ( a place with limited land) would they they think low rise detached bungalows are the answer to social housing….
    welcome to wonderland.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The Public Works Department has skilled personnel…block layers, electricians, plumbers etc..put them to work.

    • Anonymous says:

      is that a joke?…pwd is a social services entitiy to keep non-skilled people busy looking busy(aka the civil service generally)

      • Anonymous says:

        This is the major problem with Caymanians always fighting down each other. Everyone can’t be a doctor, lawyer or have a skill but everyone is needed, so keep your stupid comments to yourself. Smdh ignorance at the highest level. For your info PWD has many, many skilled workers so talk what you know.

    • Say it like it is. says:

      10.23pm What is PWD or the NRA doing (or not doing), with the new “connector road” between Eastern Ave, and N Church St. It has gone into hibernation for the last 3 months and not a soul or digger has worked on it in that period.My other question who was the Einstein that authorised this boondoggle, there is another connector road, not at all busy with traffic only 100 yards away. Only in Cayman!.

  10. Elvis says:

    Any excuse to raise prices yet again in Cayman. I for one have had it.
    You cant even afford to shop never mind home prices increasing 100,000 ci on last years prices. Utter madness. Cayman will soon price itself out of the world market.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Cayman’s success will unfortunately be its downfall, it’s funny how that works. We’ve prospered so much to the point where things are too expensive to afford it.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Too much chairmans…could built homes with their salaries.

  13. Anonymous says:

    What about remodeling existing buildings for affordable housing in town? If NAU can pay for peeps to live dump road in container homes then updating older buildings with a good foundation is a new direction perhaps, just sayin.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Not only did the last Govt ignore this housing crisis for average Caymanians, they GAVE AWAY tens of millions of our public dollars in CONCESSIONS to the already wealthy developers, such as:

    Dale Crighton, Michael Ryan (BIG ???s here), Frazer Wellon, Kenneth Dart’s companies.

    Probabky a few more that I missed, please name the rest.

    • Anonymous says:

      You hit it right on the head, just imagine how many low income houses could have been built with the money given away in concessions.

    • Anonymous says:

      The Cayman Islands Government officials (Because the government is actually the people) and special business interest’s created the current housing crisis that they are now not willing to solve.

  15. Anonymous says:

    A third of the cost is contractors profit. There is your solution

  16. Anonymous says:

    Gov department trying to streamline costs and not run over budget.

    Its like asking a christian to praise satan.

  17. Big promises but short on delivery, where’s all the money gone? says:

    This so called Housing Trust has always struggled delivering affordable accommodation in Cayman. Some of the individuals that have headed up and worked for this organisation are dubious. Seems to me it’s just another buddies club for less than trustworthy wannabe contractors and their hangers on. Every few years, there seems to be another greedy corrupted crew of incompetents on their roster.
    There have been many excuses over the years why their projects have failed and some that were literally blown away. This latest situation with building materials price inflation might be a valid one but nevertheless the money has never been put into the homes they built but it always managed to end up in the pockets of the club members.
    Does this organisation ever get audited?

  18. Anonymous says:

    What a freaking mess this island is in. Sold out to the wealthy and now have nothing to offer average Caymanians. Sadly, any local who did not buy a home in the last 5 years will no longer have the chance to be a homeowner (if you’re an average earner that is). Sorry my Caymanian ppl but you will have to venture out and try to build a life elsewhere in another country like so many expats have come here and done. Every government we elect seems useless and unwilling to prioritize stuff like this over the LGBTQWEDSUIO issues, for example. Cost of living here is soaring like a mofo and nothing is being done to curtail it while CUC’s looking to continue raping our measly paychecks. smfh

    • Anonymous says:

      Just like some of our greedy politicians, they’re not in it to make Cayman a better place for its people, it’s all about the money and perks on the side for them. Just look at the history of this jobs for buddies of politicians club.

    • Anonymous says:

      Well said.

    • Anonymous says:

      This is whataboutism nonsense. There’s no need to conflate the LGBTQ issues, with the cost of living issues.

      Matters arising from both issues are completely unrelated and independent. The government being forced to address rampantly homophobic policies that they have allowed to flourish is one thing that has zero bearing on housing.

      You can, and should, just criticize the government and the policies that have effectively shut out everyone from the local housing market, apart from people on triple digit incomes, and the independently wealthy.

    • Anonymous says:

      While I agree it’s a shame Caymanians may have a tougher time owning a home, I also believe it’s a worldwide problem if you live in a number of cities in the US and Canada. Young people all over the world are just not going to do as well as their parents. Perhaps if we raise them to save and value the importance of a home over the latest phone, shoes, designer clothes they could save enough in time. It CAN be done, but you have to work harder for it.

      • Anonymous says:

        It’s a bit boomer-y. Genuine I think, but it does a disservice to the many hardworking young people who aren’t victims of consumerism. Phones, shoes and clothes have been desirable items for more than one generation. The fact that a house here has doubled in price the last 8 years or so isn’t going to be fixed by them skipping a pair of shoes.

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