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Gov’t Quizzed on Motives over Homes Bill

I. Chester Cooper

The Member of Parliament for Exuma and Ragged Island I. Chester Cooper says he supports  reasonable efforts to increase Bahamian home ownership. However  he questioned the motives of the government over the Affordable Homes Bill before the House of Assembly.

“A home is one of the most important purchases the vast majority of people could hope to make in their lifetime.

“There are myriad reasons that home ownership is out of the reach of many Bahamians, and even more reasons, perhaps, that many Bahamians who find themselves becoming homeowners through mortgages find themselves quickly behind in their payments, or being foreclosed upon.”

Speaking in the debate on the  Bill  yesterday, Mr. Cooper said, “non-performing mortgages are around 15 percent in this country. That’s about one out of every 6  homeowners who finds it impossible to pay the mortgage.

And those are the people lucky enough to qualify for mortgages.

And, unfortunately, this government doesn’t do much more than pretend to care or halfway talk plans to help.”

He said, “while this bill  is interesting in its intent, it seems a little fantastical when it comes to its practical application.

“This bill is to allow people who qualify for lots in government subdivisions to import building materials tax-free for a period of two years in which they must build their homes or risk losing the exemptions.

“It extends to government subdivisions in New Providence and the Family Islands.

A noble effort, but who are we fooling?

“Most people can’t qualify for the $100,000 or so a local bank would facilitate for building a home’ especially after having to qualify for the lot.

“Now, I’m guessing here because details aren’t often well-thought out by this government, but I’m guessing these government lots are the ones the prime minister said his government would be offering to the Bahamian people for $30,000,” said Mr. Cooper.

“Help me, because I want to help my constituents and the Bahamian people to understand. That was announced and just kind of lingered there with no follow up, so I’m interested if this is what we’re talking about.

“If this isn’t that land that these people would potentially be building on, then where, exactly, is that land for $30,000 a lot that the prime minister promised? And why isn’t that connected to this?

“If that is the land, then let’s bottom-line this: The lot is $30,000, the house will be, let’s say 1,000 square feet at, oh, low balling $100 per square foot for what a private contractor would charge, so we have a nice round number.

That’s $130,000 for a house and the land,” said the Exuma MP.

He asked, “How many Bahamians can realistically afford that on their own through a financial institution?

If you say the intention is to facilitate these loans through an entity like the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation, then that makes more sense. But I wonder why it would be limited to land in government subdivisions.

“Hasn’t the BMC had some success in the last administration with financing low-cost homes through private developers?

Also, who is going to buy these homes, the natural answer I suppose would be government workers. 

“These would, of course, be the government workers this administration has managed not to fire in the past year, or managed not to have shaken the “security” previously associated with a Government job.

“I suppose the dream of home ownership will have to wait a little longer for those unfortunate souls.

“We have to make the imaginary leap that some undefined number of Bahamians can afford these lots and qualify for loans to build the homes.

Then, I suppose we take another imaginary leap and the minister to bring in these materials must now approve all these people, according to this bill.

“Why is the politician the one approving the permissions to get these exemptions to build?

Shouldn’t there just be a transparent process that a board or commission, or again, the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation can show you’re in compliance with and you get the approval?

“Why risk a politician holding something as important as this in his hand and making him the sole arbiter of who is approved? Many Bahamians already live in fear of being victimized by this Government.

What if, for some reason, he or she doesn’t feel like approving you when your application hits their desk that day? 

“Is there any recourse in this bill that allows for an appeal? 

Who else can you go to if you’ve followed all the imaginary rules, yet, you are denied for some reason?

“I don’t see any provision that says you must be informed of why you’ve been denied, or is this Bill only intended for friend’s family and FNMs,” said Mr. Cooper.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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