Bahamians to get another chance at affordable homes

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In keeping with his Government’s mission to accommodate the ownership of affordable housing for Bahamians, Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Hubert A. Minnis introduced a landmark Bill to this effect, in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, May 9, 2018. The Prime Minister underscored the importance of affordable housing, during the afternoon session debate on the Access To Affordable Homes Bill, 2018.    “This landmark legislation 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,” the Prime Minister said. This, he continued, is the mission of his Government – the new housing program that will help to foster the common good and create a more equitable and just society. “Along with the opportunity for work, education, and healthcare, access to affordable housing is vital for social development and human happiness and well-being,” the Prime Minister said. Affordable housing is also on the Social Agenda and social vision of the Free National Movement, which the Prime Minister said is driven by its commitment to social justice and opportunity for Bahamians. “Homeownership is good for family life and social stability. Homeownership is good for the economy, affording owners greater financial equity and social mobility,” he said. Under the proposed Act, the Government will provide service-ready land at reduced cost. The Government has identified properties for subdivision development and the sale of residential serviced lots in New Providence, Andros, Abaco, Exuma and San Salvador. The first service lots in New Providence will be available for sale in June of this year. The new housing program will also encourage second home ownership in the Family Islands. The Prime Minister noted that over the past several decades many Bahamians were able to purchase homes through various Government housing programs and subdivisions in New Providence, Grand Bahama, and the Family Islands. However, a number of these programs had various problems the poor quality of construction, the padding of costs, various corrupt practices, a lack of timeliness among other issues.

The proposed legislation will also pass on tremendous savings to homeowners.  The average lot that will be sold has a value of $100,000 will be sold for approximately $30,000. Certain material for home building will be duty-free, which may save homeowners approximately an additional $30,000 to $40,000. The Government is also seeking to provide concessions on other material such as solar panels; as part of its long-term vision for the large-scale use of renewable energy. An essential feature of the proposed housing program is that homeowners may choose their own contractors and monitor the work of their contractors.  This provides great flexibility and control. Potential homeowners will be given a two-year window to construct their home. This will empower potential homeowners to be solely responsible for the construction of their home by utilizing their own architect and/or contractor. However, the proposed legislation provides a potential homeowner with the option to request a one-year extension from the home completion date should a challenge arise. Moreover, the Department of Housing has been directed to cease the business of building houses. Instead, the Department will concentrate on installing the necessary infrastructure on the land to be developed and sold as residential serviced lots.  “Our ambitious housing program is the incentive that will help to boost new construction, our second largest industry,” the Prime Minister said. “Our housing program will create considerable opportunities for the construction industry and related businesses.”

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