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Hubert Minnis - Budget Debate

Prime Minister, Dr. Hubert Minnis told members of the House of Assembly yesterday that the Affordable Home Bill will significantly increase home ownership throughout The Bahamas, helping potentially hundreds of Bahamians to realize the long-sought dream of a home to call their own.

He said, “along with the opportunity for work, education and health care, access to affordable housing is vital for social development and human happiness and well-being,” Dr. Minnis said.

The Prime Minister added that it is the mission of his government is for a new housing program that will help to foster the common good and create a more equitable and just society.

“Home ownership is good for family life and social stability. Home ownership is good for the economy, affording owners greater financial equity and social mobility,” Dr. Minnis said.

Under the proposed Act, the government will provide service ready land at reduced cost.

According to Dr. Minnis, properties have already been identified for subdivision development and the sale of residential serviced lots in New Providence, Andros, Abaco, Exuma and San Salvador. 

“Our ambitious housing program is incentive that will help to boost new construction, our second largest industry.

“Our housing program will create considerable opportunities for the construction industry and related businesses,” Dr. Minnis said.

He revealed that over the past several decades, Bahamians were able to purchase homes through various Government Housing Programs and subdivisions in New Providence, Grand Bahama, and Family Islands. 

However, he said that a number programs had various problems such as poor quality of construction, the padding of costs, various corrupt practices, and a lack of timeliness.

On average, the cost of an affordable government home is $160,000 to $180,000 a stark contrast to previous years of when a home costed $120,000. Now the Free National Movement government proposes through an Access to Affordable Home Bill, to provide Bahamians an opportunity to purchase land at an affordable price. 

The bill tabled in the House of Assembly yesterday  will allow Bahamians to purchase land at a maximum of $30,000 and will also allow certain exemptions, via the Access to Affordable Housing bill.

Minister of State in the office of the Attorney General  Ellsworth Johnson said, “access to affordable housing is nothing new.  This is something as economies change as countries grow, that countries around the world are having to deal with. The World Resource Institute looks at the crisis of affordable housing around the world.

“The bill seeks to provide Bahamians with the opportunity to have access to lands provided by the government of The Bahamas. What the bill seeks to address is to provide certain areas, not just in New Providence, but throughout The Bahamas. 

“The bill would authorize the Minister of Finance, to allow certain exemptions,” Mr. Johnson said. 

The Yamacraw Member of Parliament said, “we are going to have the drafters look at legislation to recognize the promise that was provided for, in the speech from the throne for rent to own, that’s going to be done. 

“At this stage, we have started, I think in a yeoman way, by placing a White Paper before the House of Assembly and inviting members of the public to look at potent land reform and this is just a part of the agenda to do that,” Mr. Johnson said. 

He explained, that the minister [of finance] can approve the application  which can be extended.

“If the application is granted, it is for two years, and in certain circumstances the minister has the authority in extraordinary circumstances to extend the two-year period for building, and that’s inclusive of bringing in items,” Mr. Johnson said. 

The bill targets those who the government says have served the country  like teachers, nurses, and Police and Defence officers. 

What’s on the table is not an entirely a new idea, and Mr. Johnson,  the mover of the bill,  lauded former Governor General, Arthur Hanna, who at the time of being a member of parliament 35 years ago, requested $2 million from the then Pindling-led administration to start an Urban Renewal Programme to change the lives of Kemp Road residents.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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