As the deadline for residents of shanty towns in the country to move draws near the Bahamas Government seeks to assist those who will be left homeless.
Labour Minister and head of the Shanty Town Action Task Force, Dion Foulkes said the government has conducted a study on affordable housing options and will use the information to assist shanty town residents in finding affordable rentals elsewhere.
Residents of shanty towns, including the Mudd, Pigeon Peas, Sand Banks among others across the country, have been given a deadline of July 31 to move before the government begins demolition exercises in those areas.
Mr. Foulkes said that “there is no problem finding affordable rental units for residents of the shanty towns of whom most are working. Over 70 percent of all of the adults interviewed are gainfully employed. Some of them have two jobs.
“The other 30 percent you may say that they are unemployed, but that is not necessarily so. Then you have a huge percentage of married women and women who have relationships with men who have small children who stay at home and do not work. Just like you have in the wider society.
“So it isn’t that they don’t have money. It is very inexpensive to live in a shanty town. The rent is very low.”
He added that living in shanty towns “gives an opportunity for the Bahamian Haitians and Haitian nationals to send more money to their loved ones back in Haiti. It isn’t that they don’t have money to afford affordable housing because I know many Haitian workers who are here legally who live in regulated housing districts whether it is Fox Hill, Over-the-Hill, whether it’s in the Carmichael Road area, whether it is in the south.
“But this survey did not capture that, this survey only captured the residents in the shanty towns. Officials will use the study to assist in finding affordable housing.”
Mr. Foulkes said a date had not been yet been set for the start of the census in Abaco; however, the local committee has met with local stakeholders in preparation of the census and subsequent exercises.
He said he would meet soon with the leaseholders of the land where shanty towns existed to “basically give them notice of what we are doing and give them the opportunity to rectify the situation.”
Asked where people with status living in shanty towns were expected to go when their homes were torn down, Mr. Foulkes said, “I do not want to announce it now, but we have a plan that we are going to follow. We have been giving this a lot of consideration and I want to assure the Bahamian people that it is very precise and it is going to be done in a methodical way.
“We are not going to be rushed and we are not going to be pressured. In shanty towns are children so we have to be extremely sensitive.”
During the League of Haitian Pastors’ 24th Annual Crusade/Civic Night at the Church of God Auditorium on Joe Farrington Road on Thursday, May 24, 2018, Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis also sought to clear up any misconceptions regarding the Government’s intentions to, over time, remove shantytowns in New Providence and Abaco.
He said the government has set up a large task force to carefully plan for the removal of shantytowns, “so that we can better assimilate the residents of these areas and help to improve the quality of life of residents”.
Dr. Minnis noted the task force includes a number of representatives of the Haitian community, including pastors with whom the government is in continuous dialogue.
“There has been a tremendous misunderstanding,” he said, “by some people, of what we are trying to do.”
“Our aim is to improve the lives of all of those affected by what we are doing.”
“The ties between the Bahamas and Haiti go back several centuries,” he continued, “Haiti and The Bahamas are bound together by history, by geography and by family ties. So many Bahamians enjoy such family ties; this is something to be celebrated.”
He added, “We celebrate those who have contributed so much to building our Bahamas, no matter which land we originally came from.”