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From the Editor’s Desk: Affordable Housing

The Prime Minister was recently on island touring locations for potential low-cost housing sites. These subdivisions, according to the PM, will be cleared and provided for low cost.

The Affordable Homes Bill, passed in the House of Assembly on May 8, certainly helps create opportunities for anyone seeking to build a home. The government providing lots for a third of supposed market value is a great initiative. But I do not think it will be a total panacea. Thirty thousand dollars to purchase the land plus however much to actually build a home still places home-ownership squarely as a pipe dream for many Bahamians.

The cost of living (*ahem* BPL bills, *ahem* shipping costs, duty costs and VAT) in our beautiful archipelago is detrimental to savings accounts. So, what about borrowing money – surely the collateral of the property vs what a Bahamian would need to borrow should allow for a wave of new homeowners sitting on plenty of equity.

But, have you tried borrowing money from banks in the Bahamas in the last decade?

Are the banks’ lending practices discriminatory? Or do they simply reflect sweeping economic realities – meaning lending in The Bahamas, to Bahamians, is too risky? I don’t know, but either way it creates a roadblock for many Bahamians, especially younger Bahamians, from getting something for themselves.

Regardless, the Affordable Homes Bill is still an excellent idea in my opinion. No, it doesn’t make it possible for everyone who wants a house to get one – but that’s not really the point, or even feasible unless you have an Infinity Gauntlet laying around to change reality.

However, housing goes beyond home-ownership. Abaconians are suffering acutely from a lack of rental options. It’s a small miracle to find places to rent, especially near Marsh Harbour… and you might as well write-off the Cays.

Couple this with the supposed demolition of our Shanty Towns (which have worked as de facto affordable housing for immigrants and Bahamians alike for decades) in the coming months. If the rental market is already a sellers’ market imagine about five thousand more apartment seekers flooding the scene all at once.

Labour Minister and head of the Shanty Town Action Task Force, Dion Foulkes said about the upcoming demolitions and the looming mass displacement, “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.”

I hope so. But, still, I think we are all keen on hearing what this plan is.

The government also talked about providing concessions on solar panels, as part of its long-term vision for large-scale use of renewable energy. I don’t know what there is to talk about – I don’t know why this wasn’t enacted four governments ago.

I’m interested in seeing actual action taken beyond passing hollow Parliamentary bills or alluding to things yet to be put into place.

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