By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
THE public private partnership that resulted in the construction of dozens of new houses at Ardastra Gardens Subdivision under the former Christie administration resulted in many homes being “overpriced”, Environment and Housing Minister Romauld Ferreira revealed yesterday.
When the Minnis administration took office, officials found that the price of these single-family homes was inflated by between $13,980 and $18,650, the minister told members of Parliament. Arawak Homes, which subcontracted the building project to an estimated 30 to 40 contractors, managed the overall process. The cost per unit was $150,00 to $160,000, officials said back in 2016.
This served as motivation, Mr Ferreira said, for the government’s decision to discontinue offering turnkey homes, but instead serviced lots.
During his contribution yesterday, he did not name the private company responsible for building the houses or where they were located. However, after the morning sitting of the House, he confirmed that he was referring to those constructed in Ardastra.
“The government is committed to fulfilling its mandate to continue the development of new government subdivisions in the Bahamas,” Mr Ferreira said as the mover of a resolution to convey 1.267 acres of land at the southwest junction of Romer Street and Armbrister Street for the sale of serviced lots to be called the Lionel Davis Subdivision.
The land will be divided into 10, 50x100 lots.
“These subdivisions are developed with the singular purpose in mind to address the unmet demand for affordable housing in this country. We believe that this is a dire situation that there are thousands and thousands of Bahamians that have unmet needs when it comes to the provisions of housing.
“The old way of doing business, Mr Speaker has ceased.
“When we came to office, we met subdivisions in place, one in particular and I want to explain why, so the Bahamian public can be very clear why the old way of doing business could not go on, why the old way of business as practised under the Christie-Davis administration could not go on.
“We met a subdivision in place where based on the appraised value and this is why it’s important, the houses were overpriced by between $13,980 and $18,650. No one in their right mind wants to pay more for something. Whether it’s a house, whether it’s a conch snack or whether it’s conch salad, nobody.
“So the Department of Housing made a decision that we will no longer build houses. Today the department focuses on installing the necessary infrastructure on undeveloped land to produce residential serviced lots.”
However, Central and South Andros MP Picewell Forbes rejected the government’s strategy, insisting turnkey homes are what works.
He said: “The PLP has already established its policy position on this of which the serviced lot for the most part could not and would not help the larger housing crisis with our people unable to finance the construction of homes after they get these lots through the process that has been constructed.
“That is why the government was in the housing construction business for the most part under the PLP. Because it was cheaper, more efficient and this structure would have allowed for single mothers in particular to be able to afford a home.
“The other issue right now, Mr Speaker, if one were to visit the Fox Hill area you will see that the density of the population is quite high in the area that we are talking about, the roads are quite narrow and the question is whether or not we attended to the traffic problem and whether the additional population density in the area will be conducive to peace and order in that community, which already has challenges with keeping peace in everyday life.”
The government further plans to offer 60 serviced lots in the Carmichael Village area later this year. It is expected that these lots will be sold for less than $30,000.
In total, around 360 lots would have been offered in this first phase of the Minnis administration’s housing plan.
The programme will also extend to the Family Islands.