Housing officials at the Ministry of Housing and National Insurance have had to spend the first year of the present government’s administration correcting “many of the mistakes” left behind by the previous government, Minister of Housing and National Insurance, the Hon. Kenneth Russell said in the House of Assembly Wednesday.
Mr. Russell said the work has included the installation of roads, water, electricity and sewerage systems and repairs and/or renovations to what he termed “defective homes.”
Addressing Parliament on a Resolution for the Conveyance of 88.279 acres of land in Spring City, Abaco for the purpose of continuing the Government’s Housing Development, Mr. Russell said that while the previous administration continues to say that they built and completed more than 1,300 homes over their five-year term in office, his figures show differently.
Mr. Russell said that upon taking office, officials met a situation at the Department of Housing where 86 houses were incomplete; hundreds more where people lived without conveyances and/or mortgages, 40 houses that were “supposedly completed” but where persons could not move into because the infrastructure was not completed; three houses in which persons resided who claimed that the houses were gifts from the Minister and that they did not have to pay mortgage, rent “or anything else.”
He said that additionally, there were 400 houses on mortgage but with no insurance; ten homes with mortgages that were “bought-out” but had “deliberately not been placed on the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation’s (BMC) books” for four years and that the BMC and Department of Housing were “broke, both owing millions to other corporations, contractors and to each other.”’
“The previous government talked about the continuation of government…the people who are saying that we have not built one house do not believe that government is continuous. I presume that they expected, or wanted, this Minister of Housing to ignore these problems, to walk away from incomplete houses, to ignore houses that people could not live in, not to connect the electricity, the telephones and the sewer systems and they did not want us to complete subdivisions with no infrastructure.
“They only wanted us to proceed with the construction of new houses. How would it look if we had built new houses while hundreds of structures at various stages, were not completed and could not be placed on BMC’s books?” he asked.
The Housing Minister said the ministry chose to complete unfinished houses, repair defective homes, obtain ownership of land, secure conveyances and secure mortgages so that the BMC could generate a cash flow toward the creation of new housing subdivisions and the building of new homes.
He said the Department of Housing is putting the required infrastructure – electricity, water, roads, phone and sewerage – in place in Dignity Gardens No. 2, which will put 33 Bahamian families into homes soon and which will make it easier for the BMC to develop a cash flow in order to restart the government’s housing programme.
Mr. Russell said that while “not one new house” was built in Dignity Gardens No.1, officials installed a Lift Station in order to “stop the honey wagon from traveling the streets of the community to pump the honey from the pit and dripping it along the road en route to the sewer plant and the clean-up site.”
“We have more than 63 defective houses requiring repairs which we are seeking to make acceptable to the owners, 27 of which contracts have already been issued,” Mr. Russell added.
Mr. Russell said the Department will have to repair 51 of the 87 houses built in Excellence Gardens Subdivision. Forty-two of the houses are currently under repair. Mr. Russell said 18 conveyances and mortgages have been executed.
He said 27 of the 29 houses that were built in Adelaide Village have to be repaired, with 22 of those homes requiring “serious and costly repairs.” Engineers from the Ministry of Works have reviewed the “structural failures and have recommended the way forward.”
“The repairs will start soon in our attempt to bring an acceptable level of satisfaction to these homeowners,” he added.
Mr. Russell said that 81 of the 94 houses built in Pride Estates No. 1 will have to be repaired. Thirty-five of the homes have already been repaired with work underway on the remaining 46.
He said that all ten homes built in West heights in West End, Grand Bahama are under contract for repairs.
“We have had to install in each house a bathroom window, security screens, eaves vents and have had to remove the carpet and tile the floor of the living-room, reconfigure the entrances to prevent water ingress under the door and anchor eight of the houses by adding proper foundations in all four corners.
We have not built one house,” Minister Russell said, “but what we have done is to repair the houses built to make families’ lives more secure and comfortable.”