Survey launched to help UPM with housing challenge

| 20/03/2024 | 49 Comments
Cayman News Service
Watermark condo tower, artist’s rendition

(CNS): Almost two years after the government established a cross-ministerial task force to examine the housing crisis in the Cayman Islands and develop a policy, it is now seeking ideas from the public. Fuelled by competing demands and exceptionally high prices, the housing market in Cayman has become unaffordable for almost all but the very well-off, creating a catalogue of social problems. The ministry has launched a public opinion survey to encourage local people to say what they want.

Less than 18 months out from the 2025 election, there is still no housing policy in place, and it is unlikely there will be one before Cayman goes to the polls. It is not clear what, if anything, came out of the work of the cross-ministerial task force, but the planning ministry has now taken over the development of a policy.

At the end of January the ministry revealed that consultants had been engaged to tackle the challenges in the local housing market and develop an affordable housing policy and 10-year strategic plan.

According to the government’s procurement site, the CI$276,750 contract was awarded to Public Works LLC. Officials said the survey was aimed at “gathering valuable insights” to inform the development of the policy.

The anonymous survey asks residents to answer a series of questions, comment on their own perspectives and experiences, and make suggestions about housing affordability, preferences, and strategies for creating more accessible housing options for all. It covers demographic information, current housing status, affordability concerns, housing preferences, strategies for housing creation, and the vision for the future.

“The future of housing in the Cayman Islands is a priority for our government,” Planning Minister Jay Ebanks said. “We are committed to ensuring that our policies reflect the needs and aspirations of our communities. This survey presents an invaluable opportunity for all of Cayman’s residents to share their perspectives and shape the direction of housing policies for the next decade.”

Ebanks said the government recognises the critical importance of addressing housing challenges and ensuring that every Caymanian has access to safe, affordable housing. “This survey is a crucial step in our commitment to developing inclusive and sustainable housing policies that reflect the needs and aspirations of our communities. We want to hear from residents of all ages, backgrounds, and districts. I strongly encourage everyone to participate,” he added.

Cayman’s housing challenges are not unique; the same problems are now common in many tourism destinations as long-term rental units are lost to Airbnb and other online accommodation platforms.

This is compounded by the excessive overdevelopment of the coastline on Grand Cayman to meet the demand for wealthy overseas second homeowners, which is having a knock-on impact on prices inland. As wealthy absentee owners looking for luxury property to bank or visit occasionally snap up condos on or near the beach, prices are pushed up everywhere, and there is now a serious shortage of affordable accommodation for the people who live and work here.

There is now a huge problem trying to house low-paid expatriate workers recruited to serve and support tourism and the needs of millionaires. This has created a vicious circle and a massive strain on the local infrastructure that the last three governments have failed to address.

However, the public is now being given the opportunity to help the government by offering suggestions on how to address this crisis and get Caymanians, long-term residents and workers back in affordable homes.

The survey is available online here and will remain open for 30 days. All responses will be confidential and analysed by the consultants who will be producing the report for the government.

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Category: Policy, Politics

Comments (49)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This survey is undoubtedly the result of a survey done to determine whether a survey was required.

  2. Anonymous says:

    So let me get this straight, PAHI, the Housing Ministry has launched a survey because they want to hear from Caymanians, but they would not even hire a Caymanian consulting company, comprising of local, technical, knowledgeable, industry-experienced professionals with Master’s degrees in planning….

    Instead, they hire a foreign firm with no experience nor knowledge about our Islands or issues we face as Caymanians.

    I guess they really DID NOT want to hear from Caymanians then.

    Eric Bush, why was the Caymanian firm not selected?

    • Forte Banks says:

      Are we really surprised?

      Clearly the CIG has their own agenda they want to push.

      Watch the results. They want to push the Lease to Own program. Heard it from a little birdie.

  3. Anonymous says:

    wow, I feel better already.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Safe, Affordable, Timely, 24/7, Island-Wide, State of the Art/Modern Public Transport should be the first step!

    Airbnb is not this issue here, at least not the legit ones who have a license to conduct their business and shell out 13% of their revenue in taxes to the CIG each month. This is an important revenue stream for both responsible owners and the government. Long and short of the matter is that the opportunity of living and owning on SMB has it’s price, and it should as the beach is super prime real estate and the market demand clearly supports this. What we should be looking at first is the development of an island wide, modern, affordable, safe, frequent, timely, 24/7, and reliable public transit network. A hybrid of high speed rail that encircles the entire island and a public bus network that actually follow schedules to the minute (the technology has been available as long as I can remember for at least 40-50 years) with affordable monthly passes (subsidized to those can demonstrate need) would be a project I would aggressively support. A high speed rail project would be a massive undertaking but the benefits would be far reaching. It would modernize our public transport most importantly creating a highly desirable, convenient, affordable, timely, and reliable option to both visitors and residents, along with many highly desirable employment/career opportunities for starters. Imagine a rail network having a grand central station at the airport with a SMB/West Bay line and an alternating Prospect/Bodden Town/East End/Frank Sound + Prospect/Bodden Town/Frank Sound/Cayman Kai line or something to that effect with stations at all towns and public busses accessed at each station (I’m not suggesting this is the only possible network but I’m just trying to draw a picture here to start the conversation). Get people to work quickly, safely, reliably, timely, and affordably 24/7 on Grand Cayman and you set the stage for housing development at every corner of the island which will hopefully make suitable affordable housing more accessible for all. Tourists want the beach, let’em have it and let the pay what the market dictates. Residents should live in safe, accessible, more affordable neighbourhoods away from it all.

    • Two Cents says:

      Maybe in the next 40-50 years, you can figure out what your bus and rail transport system would cost, who would pay for it and how you would wean persons off the convenience and privacy of their own vehicles.

      • Anonymous says:

        Good question. With a suitable 24/7 public transport network in place motor vehicle ownership restrictions can become more of an enforceable reality. Long term sustainable laws such as Caymanian Only ownership of motor vehicles and/or limiting the number of vehicles a single Caymanian can register/own and/or only permitting Caymanians to hold a long-term motor vehicle license are just some ideas that could be implemented to help reduce traffic congestion.

        Infrastructure costs are always an enormous part of a balanced national for good governance. The cost of neglecting a country’s woefully unsuitable and insufficient infrastructure is as apparent as it is in Cayman as it is irresponsible.

  5. Anonymous says:

    For effective implementation of low-cost housing projects, it is imperative that the government ensures availability of land at subsidised rates, fast approvals, property tax relief, funding support, additional FSI, connectivity to suburbs and creation of special residential zones. For buyers, a combination of low-cost and easy credit, especially for those who are still not part of formal banking channels, is the first step for the success of affordable and low-cost housing initiatives

  6. Fool. Lish Ness Mess says:

    “The future of staying in power in the Cayman Islands is a priority for our government,”…..if you read between the lines, or playing it backwards on your turntable will spell out the same nonsense.

    Chek out the millions being wasted beside the North Side dock….Basketball court is nice though. Glad its’s being used by the expats atleast.

  7. Anonymous says:

    This first thing that needs to happen is that…something needs to happen. Not long term plans, surveys, consultants and navel gazing.

    For starters – acknowledge that unbridled overdevelopment is a big part of the problem. Government allows (even encourages) developers and real estate agents to make out like bandits while publicly wringing its hands about how to help the average Caymanian find housing. Stop giving stamp duty waivers to large developers and their wealthy purchasers, they hardly need it. Tie permits for large scale developments to building or subsidizing the building of affordable housing, then make sure it’s built. Require large hotel developments to include on-site housing for some number of their staff.

    Housing stock could be readily increased by limiting AirBnB and the like – it would be controversial I’m sure, but perhaps only Caymanians and PR holders should be able to generate income from property rentals, instead of the current free for all. Pass a decent landlord/tenant law. Give young Caymanians a real hand up (not a hand out) to buy their first property. Jurisdictions all over the globe are dealing with these issues in different ways – have a look around and learn, rather than waiting for yet another consultant’s report.

    Everyone deserves access to safe, affordable housing now. Not the continual kicking of the can down the road until the situation is so bad that there are no good solutions.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hard for the CIREBA cartel to stomach, but Govt’ needs to abolish the monopoly on realty sales commission by CIREBA. There is zero reason a seller should be subsidizing the buyer’s agent.
      Then you will see some affordable housing options for Caymanians.

  8. Lo-cal says:

    Just go up!

    Start building high rise apartments like other high density sparse land countries like Singapore. The major factors to the cost of building here is the land. $140K for a .25 acre house lot inland.

  9. Anonymous says:

    A survey! We’re saved!

    • Anonymous says:

      When I look at that picture, I see lots of people jammed into one location. Cockroaches, infestation, Noise, Crime and buildings that in a few years will be run down. Could be wrong.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Tax the foreign owners. It’s a win win. Government makes some revenue and the fall in demand trickles down to lower house prices for all.

    Stamp duty collected by government is nothing compared to the revenue generated from financial services.

    House prices have to be brought down. Nobody that intends to live in the islands all their lives benefits from them.

  11. Anonymous says:

    When are we getting answers on the runaway fuel prices!??

  12. Dune Buddy says:

    Excellent reporting, CNS! VRBO /Air B& B are a plague unto the world and it is exacerbated here due to no restrictions on the predatory industry.

    Houses, apartments, condominiums and townhouses approved by CPA open up as psuedo hotel lodging from day 1.

    No one resides in them as permanent residents, and they are essentially operating them as a business. Other greedy landlords know how easy this is, so they raise the rents to absurd pricing and convert their units to VRBO/Air B&B.

    Everyone knows how to play and win the game and those who could place an immediate moratorium on this will not act.

    The same goes for the wealthy real estate investors, and they will never be slowed down, nor stopped.

    The real estate industry is wholly complicit, and when they say “It’s never been a better time to buy!”, they do not mean that for the average people. It’s to further enrich most of these former bartenders and housewives.

    For such a religious place, there is unbridled wickedness about.

    • Anonymous says:

      The majority of our stay over accomodations are not hotels (read AirBnB). It’s not just the CPA that’s complicit. It’s everyone at the government level in charge of tourism also. They’re all tied together.

      • Anonymous says:

        Time for the insurance companies to audit homeowner policies and find out how many of their customers are using their domiciles as a business.

  13. james says:

    Ban the sale of new housing units to non-caymanians for 5 years. Nationalize the unsold land on the beaches and eliminate any further development of beach property out to 150 feet inland.

    Limit Air BNB rentals to 5 months per year.

    That would be a good start.

    • Anonymous says:

      Everyone is Caymanian at this point or married to one. CIG need to change how they grant status to people first.

    • Anonymous says:

      The beachfront was nationalized, it was all owned by Caymanians who then decided to sell their birthright for a new car or a trip to Miami. Sorry you had your chance.

    • Anonymous says:

      1 month per year!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Another survey to tell them what they should know if they’re aware and speaking with their constituents but getting an average of $300,000 a year do they really give a f*** ? No, their salaries are paid for indirectly by developers and financial institutions primarily.

    JuJu, Kenny, Alden, Mac, as well as Wayne have pandered to the high net worth. Kenny wants a $50m private airport, Govt Officials have slated $21m for beach nourishment. That’sthe first two I thought of coming in at almost $70m that the local population will never see the benefits from and all targeted to high net worth and beach front owners/developers.

    Inequality CIG, that’s what you’re fast tracking us further into but don’t just read my rant, check out Marla Durkarans report from a couple of weeks ago.

  15. Anonymous says:

    These surveys and consultants do nothing. CIG need to stop wasting money and fix the housing crisis ASAP.

  16. Joe says:

    History has shown that surveys get absolutely nothing done. They just lead to more paper in the landfill.

    If a survey is all they can do, we’re not getting a housing policy or law any time soon. Maybe in another decade or two.

  17. Anonymous says:

    “Cayman’s housing challenges are not unique; the same problems are now common in many tourism destinations as long-term rental units are lost to Airbnb and other online accommodation platforms.”
    CNS you are completely right. AirBnB’S and/or expats buying the housing is killing the housing market for Caymanians. Ban Airbnbs and expats buying houses for two years. Housing challenge fixed.

    • Anonymous says:

      I found the best solution is not to create estates managed by more government bureaucracy but rather, as in many U.S. cities, require developers to set aside units for lower income residents. This has the additional benefits of lowering the cost to the general citizenry, breaking down barriers put up by the super rich hogging the best bits of our coasts, and healing the divisions developers are making in our community.

      • Forte Banks says:

        I lived in one such development. I owned, but of the approx. 125 houses, in each building there were FOUR low-cost condos for RENT. Homes were also for RENT at approximately the cost of a monthly mortgage payment.

        YES, this model works!
        I don’t know why getting this SIMPLE Housing Law into effect should be difficult?!?

        Except OF COURSE, pushback from Developers who would want to get more money out of those properties.

  18. Anonymous says:

    UPM should just buy Watermark and put all the NAU clients in there. It will sit empty most of the year otherwise.

  19. Anonymous says:

    anti trust laws to limit ownership by billionaires/millionaires…even if they have status is the answer……so what qre we waiting for politicians? free up land to be bought and sold..not just bought and herd it up…..ZZZZZZZ

  20. Anonymous says:

    What happened to the cross-ministerial task force? NOTHING!! That’s why they paid $277K to an overseas company to spell it out for them.
    We keep engaging and paying for all of these consultants when there is local talent that would do it for free!!!! The previous administration gathered experts locally in the industry and we were making progress when covid hit and most naturally the focus shifted and a new government was elected.
    The Planning Minister states the obvious but how does the public’s opinion matter now since you dropped $277K on a consultant??? This is just smoke and mirrors cause the election season has started and they have to be seen as doing something and there is no time left to put a policy in place. Where is the capital coming from cause Julianna needs her new high school.
    The Planning Minister’s CPA board is approving alot of development but who is it benefitting? People from around the world are buying property without even seeing it. How does a local compete with that? The people’s rights don’t matter with the overdevelopment that led to the housing crisis and so on and so on.
    Talk to the hand Jay.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Another 6 figure payout for a survey that will be used as a dust collector.

  22. lil Bobo in East End says:

    Two things:

    1. Increase the density allowed so affordable homes can generate enough return to be built given the cost of land and materials.

    2. Functioning public transport.

    • Anonymous says:

      Totally support functioning public transport. Totally opposed to creating high density proto-ghettos.

      • lil Bobo in East End says:

        We could see a lot more housing on 5,000sg ft lots for single family, townhomes and well-designed apartment blocks. Allocating the bulk of zoning to low-density residential with a minimum of .25 acres or more is madness.

        There are very functional solutions in many other parts of the world, we should learn from that experience. Increased density does not have to equate to “proto-ghettos”.

  23. Anonymous says:

    there is no-one in cig or civil service with expertise or qualifications to tackle this issue even with the help of consultants.
    civil service is filled with poorly educated people with zero ability to tackle these issues.
    if we can’t be honest and face these facts we will never be closer to a solution.

    caymanians elect these people so you have no-one else to blame but yourselves.
    and to make things worse, you also prevent the most qualified and successful people on island from being elected…
    welcome to wonderland.

    • Anonymous says:

      Civil service employs lots of talented people but the elected people drive policy. Many good civil servants are stifled by bureaucracy and fear of change, Let’s face the next year is about getting reelected.

    • Anonymous says:

      “there is no-one in cig or civil service with expertise or qualifications to tackle this issue even with the help of consultants.
      civil service is filled with poorly educated people with zero ability to tackle these issues.
      if we can’t be honest and face these facts we will never be closer to a solution”

      Unfortunately, this is the correct answer for practically every issue the country faces currently.

    • Forte Banks says:

      One should always be careful when making sweeping generalizations.

      While I agree with the lack of qualified people in the CIG and also the elected MPs, there ARE some educated, intelligent and devoted civil servants.
      Shockingly, there are a couple of MP’s that are worthy representatives also.

      Using the same consultants as they’ve always used, will lead to the same results.
      There are other / new options. And yes, the CIG NEEDS consultants for the reason we both agree on.
      As a whole, the CIG isn’t qualified to make the BEST decisions for our country.

      Where I really disagree with you is to call a certain population segment “the most qualified and successful people”.
      Do things like local experience count for nothing?
      Does being a successful local business owner mean nothing?
      Does having an acute understanding of local culture account for nothing?

      How many nations – large or small, allow Non-citizens to be their Ministers or Premiers or President etc?
      How many nations hire foreigners to be the majority of the Government workers (civil servants)?
      Nobody to blame but ourselves … ? Guess we can join most of the world then.

      Aren’t the consultant that government has used for years part of the very segment you are touting as the people who should be working in government as civil servants and who should be elected as MPs? Seems IRONIC

  24. Anonymous says:

    a survey???….just slow-rolling the issue and kicking the can down the road….
    welcome to wonderland.

  25. Anonymous says:

    UPM is on the job so have no worries, it won’t get sorted out any time soon


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