REMARKS ON THE PRESENTATION OF A RESOLUTION FOR
SPRING CITY ABACO
by A. Kenneth Russell
I am pleased to represent the people of High Rock here in this Parliament, and to bring remarks as I second this Resolution for the conveyance of 88.279 acres of land in Spring City Abaco for the purpose continuing the Governments housing development. Before I do so, I want to inform the members of this honourable chamber of the housing programme over the past year in The Bahamas.
Followers of the one and only true God understand that the race is not to the swiftest or the strongest but to he who preservers to the end. Comparisons during the course of the race do not matter – it is the results at the end by which we are judged. I believe in God. I believe in his word. And I believe that he who believes will move forward and succeed in the end no matter how dark the day may seem.
The previous administration continue to say that they built 1300+ houses during the past five (5) years, but my inspection and calculations tells a different story.
Much has been said about the fact that the Department of Housing has not built one house in the last year. Mr. Speaker, at what stage is a building completed? Is it when the foundation is poured? Is it when the walls are put up? Is it when the roof is placed on the body? Is it when the internal fittings are completed? When the building is painted? When the final inspection is made? When the property is conveyed? Or is it Mr. Speaker, when all of the above and the necessary repairs are completed, and the homeowner is relatively pleased, that all have been made well and the homeowner and family are in enjoyment of the realization of a lifelong dream?
This Government promised to increase Bahamian home ownership. For me this means providing for our people structures in which they can live, into which they can move their families, for which we can give them mortgages and conveyances signifying ownership, over time. Just as every sperm donor is not a father, so it is that every edifice is not a home, especially if it does not satisfy the requirements for satisfactory living.
The Department of Housing did not build one house during my first year in office. But, on coming to office:
· we met eighty six (86) houses incomplete,
· hundreds of houses where people lived without conveyances and/or mortgages,
· Forty (40) houses supposedly completed where people could not move in because infrastructure was not completed.
· Mr. Speaker, we also met three (3) houses with people in residence who claimed that the houses were gifts from the Minister, which they did not have to pay mortgage, rent or anything else.
· We met 400 houses on mortgage with no insurance, it is a good thing that no fire, hurricane, or flooding had occurred in this community putting the home owner at risk, which would have cause serious additional expenses on the BMC.
· We met ten (10) homes with mortgage bought-out from imperial life and deliberately not placed on the corporation’s books for four years.
· We met the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation and the Department of Housing broke, both owing millions to other corporations, contractors and to each other.
The previous government talked about the continuation of government, especially when we question the planning, cost and execution of a project we had no problem continuing the work began by them.
The people who are saying that we have not build 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 water, the telephones, and the sewer systems, 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 build new houses while hundreds of structures at various stages were not completed and could not be placed on BMC’s books.
With the available funds Mr. Speaker, the Ministry chose to:
· complete unfinished houses,
· repair the defective houses,
· 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.
I recap in more detail Mr. Speaker.
We have not built one house in Dignity Gardens-2 Mr. Speaker. But as the member for West End and Bimini says, “Mr. Speaker the truth of the matter is” we had to regularize the subdivision in order to transfer title to Bahamians who wanted to invest their hard earned money in getting a home, so that when the infrastructure was completed we would be able to put the mortgages on the books of the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation. We have 33 houses in this section and the Department of Housing is having the required infrastructure i.e. electricity, water, roads, phone and sewage installed. We did not built one house, but we have made it easier for BMC to develop a cash flow in order to restart the government housing program and provide quality, energy efficient homes for our people Mr. Speaker, we will put thirty-three (33) Bahamian families in homes soon.
Dignity Gardens 1
Not one new house was built in Dignity Gardens-1 Mr. Speaker, but as the member for West End and Bimini says “the truth of the matter is” we had to install the 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 in route to the sewer plant and the cleanup site. We had to re assess seven (7) houses because the persons assigned by the previous Government were unable to meet the mortgage payments; four (4) other families assigned houses and living in them for more than a year, are having difficulty qualifying for the mortgage, but, the department is working with them so that soon these houses will also be on BMC’s books adding to its cash flow.
We have more than 63 houses requiring repairs, 27 contracts have been issued and 3 houses have had repairs completed so far. We are also regularizing property approved for a church and proceeds from this sale will add to the cash flow. We did not built one home but we have made it easier for BMC to develop a cash flow in order to restart the government housing program and provide quality, energy efficient homes for our people. We are seeking to make the sixty-three (63) defective houses, acceptable to the owners.
Forest Land Estates (formerly Perpall Tract)
The Department of Housing has not built one house in the area, now renamed Forest Land Estates, Mr. Speaker, But, again, as I quote the Honourable member for West End and Bimini, “the truth of the matter is”. Mr. Speaker, we had to obtain ownership of the land in this subdivision in order to transfer title to Bahamians who want to invest their hard earned money to obtain a home. We have restarted the infrastructural work; we have honoured contracts entered into by the previous administration for which no funds were allocated for payment so that we will be able to put the mortgages on the BMC books. We have 3 houses that we have completed and twelve under construction. Of the 58 original lots in this subdivision, 4 have to remain as open space to accommodate a 16″ water main of the Water and Sewerage Corporation. We did not built one house but we have made it possible for BMC to develop a cash flow in order to restart the government housing program and provide quality, energy efficient homes for our people.
Yellow Elder Gardens
We have not built one house in Yellow Elder, not one, “but Mr. Speaker the truth of the matter is” there are four scattered sites on which 13 houses are completed and can be occupied, but only after the sewer/waste system is connected. Four are being fitted with septic tanks and deep disposal wells and work is underway so that another 4 which require a step-down transformer, road and water can be occupied. All this work is being done now. In addition, all 13 houses require repairs. The house foundation that was built in the road is being reviewed to determine whether we complete construction and close the road permanently or open the road by means of demolishing the foundation. We did not built one house in Yellow Elder but we rationalized the situation and made it easier for BMC to put the 13 homes on the books adding to the cash flow in order to restart the government housing program and provide quality, energy efficient homes for our people.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, we have not built one house in Millennium Gardens this term (after all we created Millennium Gardens in 2000). “But Mr. Speaker the truth of the matter is” we have re-assigned the last house. We did not built one house but we have made it easier for BMC to develop a cash flow in order to restart the government housing program and provide quality, energy efficient homes for our people.
Yes we have not built one house in Jubilee Gardens, not one, but as the member for West End and Bimini says “ Mr. Speaker the truth of the matter is” we are repairing 10 houses and have fenced-in the unused, open pool, for the second time to ensure a safe area for the children of the area. We did not built one home but we are making it safer for the residents who live here. We also intend to form a partnership in the management and operations of the pool to ensure that the young people of the area and others may learn how to swim and how to compete in swimming.
Mr. Speaker the pool cost $63,000.00 but the landscaping cost $280,000.00 I don’t know what happened to all this beautification but all I see there is weeds and shrubs.
Yes we have not built one house in Excellence Gardens, not one, but as the member for West End and Bimini says “but Mr. Speaker the truth of the matter is” we are repairing 51 houses out of a total of 87 built in the subdivision. Forty two houses (42) houses are under repairs now. Six houses have had to be re-assigned because the persons assigned by the previous government have not been able to qualify. Eighteen (18) conveyances and mortgages have been executed. We have also delivered on the promised of providing funds for grass and fencing committed to residents here by one of the previous Ministers. We did not built one house in Excellence Gardens but we have made it easier for BMC to develop a cash flow in order to restart the government housing program and provide quality, energy efficient homes for our people.
Yes we have not built one house in Adelaide Village, not one, but as the member for West End and Bimini says “but Mr. Speaker the truth of the matter is”, of the twenty nine (29) houses that were built, twenty seven (27) have to be repaired and of those, twenty two (22) require serious and costly repairs. The Ministry of Works engineers 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.
Yes we have not built one house in Pride Estates, “but Mr. Speaker the truth of the matter is” of the ninety four (94) houses built, eighty one (81) have to be repaired. Repairs for thirty five (35) are completed and repairs are underway for the others.
Yes we have not built one house in West Heights in West End, not one, but as their Member of Parliament always say “Mr. Speaker the truth of the matter is” we had to acquire the land in order to regularize the persons who were living in ten (10) of the houses since construction during 2004. All 10 houses are now under contract for repairs. We have had to install in each house a bath room window, security screens, eves vents, remove the carpet and tile the floor of the living room, re-configure the entrance to prevent water ingress under the door, anchor eight of the houses by adding proper foundations in all four corners, and re-locate the water heater from the ceiling to the ground level.
We have assigned the last house and provided conveyances for all eleven (11) houses and the mortgage are in the process of being completed. We did not built one house but we have made it easier for BMC to develop a cash flow in order to restart the government housing program and provide quality, energy efficient affordable homes for our people. I know that the Member has received numerous complaints about these houses in West Heights, that he had built on this site, we are going to make the families lives more secured and comfortable.
Yes we have not built one house in Sunset, not one, but as the member for West End and Bimini says “Mr. Speaker the truth of the matter is” we are repairing nineteen (19) houses in this subdivision; fifteen (15) others are completed but un-occupied are being assigned; five (5) houses are being completed; new contracts had to be issued for those five (5) houses where the contractor was paid all the money and the house were at stages 2 and 3, only half finished. Mr. Speaker, The flooding of this area has been brought to our attention so, to bring relief we will be placing a sidewalk and installing drains. Many persons have received conveyances and mortgages during this period. We did not built one home but in Sunset but we have made it easier for BMC to develop a cash flow in order to restart the government housing program and provide quality, energy efficient and affordable homes for our people.
Just prior to us taking over the Government 12 of 29 houses were completed, and families moved in. We are now near completion of six more homes with water meters being installed now and eleven (11) more homes are being completed. Twelve (12) persons have received conveyances and mortgages during this period. We did not built one house in Frobisher but we have been able to cause twelve (12) families to be in a better position so, that they can plan their lives and we made it easier for BMC to develop a cash flow in order to restart the government housing program and provide quality, energy efficient and affordable homes for our people. Six other families will be placed in homes soon at Frobisher.
There are several other locations like West End, Moss Town, Heritage, Hawksbill, Central Pines, just to name a few, where we can tell our story of how we are making it better for our people but suffice it to say that we have signed and issued 284 conveyances for homes and serviced lots in New Providence and one hundred and thirty four in Grand Bahama and the Family Islands. In the last several months, a total of $12,350,031 in conveyances were placed on the books of the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation. Most of the monies received has gone to pay bills left outstanding by the previous government.
We could have acted wrongly and short-change the payments mentioned to build new houses, but with so many houses not in use and others in-completed we taught that we will make the bad work good first. Especially, seeing that we had no money.
The recent $5 million dollars injected into the Ministry of Housing and National Insurance caused us to be able to put over 117 families in homes as we move forward paying bills like $1,018,683 to Bethel’s Trucking, $614,002 to Sybco Co, and $ 579,014 to the Water & Sewage Co, BTC $119,000.00, the GBPA $385,478.75, GB Millwork $141,634.09 and to other contractors with executed contracts from the former administration.
The problems that this administration inherited and had to correct over the past year were caused by several things – lack of money, employment of unskilled contractors, variations between the actual cost of houses and the contract amount, the building of houses on land that was not the property of the Minister for Housing, The inspection of the homes and failure to follow the building regulations and codes.
On my watch, Mr. Speaker, Housing will not spent money it does not have, Housing will not build on land we do not own, and Housing will build affordable, energy efficient homes.
This resolution today is for the historic Spring City in Abaco where we will build a number of homes and provide serviced lots for the low income residents of the Abaco community. This must be a good sign of better things to come, because this is also the month when BMC begin to have available for use $500,000.00 a month to put towards the building of houses. We will sign contracts with contractors and developers who have form a partnership with the Ministry of Housing and National Insurance to build conventional homes, as we complete our review of the different housing materials that can be used to lower the cost of houses so that we can construct affordable, energy efficient, high quality homes for the target market.
I look forward, to the near future when I will be addressing Parliament on the presentation of similar Resolutions that will enable the Ministry of Housing to acquire more land here in New Providence and selected family islands for the purpose of creating new subdivisions for Bahamian citizens to become proud owners of their own houses or land and the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation cash flow will continue to grow stronger and stronger, the more it grows the more we can build affordable, energy efficient, high qualities homes for our people to own a piece of the rock.
I take pleasure in seconding this Resolution for the sale of land by the treasurer of the Bahamas to the Minister responsible for Housing and National Insurance for 88.279 acre parcel of land in Spring City Abaco.