Low-Cost Homes Downpayment To Be Reduced

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November 25, 2008

While some Bahamians may be placing their dream of home ownership on hold due to the economic crisis, Housing Minister Kenneth Russell said his ministry has agreed to reduce the downpayment and legal charges on low-cost homes.

Mr. Russel said the move was one of a number of ways the administration is exploring as a way to reduce the cost of government homes throughout The Bahamas.

"We have agreed that we would reduce the down payment from 10 percent to five percent," Mr. Russell said. "We have agreed that we would reduce all of the other legal charges to about half of what they are now. And right now, some people pay about $14,000 to get into a house and we want to bring that down to about $7,000.

Mr. Russellís comments came Monday while touring the newly-constructed Ardastra Gardens and Pride Estates III subdivision with a number of officials from the Ministry of Housing, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation, the Water & Sewerage Corporation and BTC.

As it now stands, a low-cost home in Ardastra Gardens Estates will range between $84 to $110,000.

But according to Mr. Russell, the ministry is also exploring ways to reduce the monthly payments of homeowners.

"The Mortgage Corporation is exploring this now and hopefully they will come up with an answer for us soon, where we can have people in houses with a small down payment and have them in the house for the next 30 years paying a monthly payment that they can truly afford," he said.

"We have found many persons who have serious difficulty trying to afford the monthly payment on these houses and the minute that something happens [to these persons], that is mortgage payment that cannot be met and we are trying to eliminate that."

Yesterdayís tour, according to Mr. Russell, was to allow the press to witness the various housing projects that are now underway in New Providence. Other homes are also being built in Exuma, Abaco Andros and Freeport.

"This is a massive Bahamas project and in New Providence we have received 64 acres off Carmichael Road to be developed and we have already started a survey on this," Mr. Russell said. "We will get another 10 acres off Cowpen Road, another four acres off Bacardi Road and we have acreage off Fox Hill."

Meanwhile, in Ardastra Gardens Estates, a total of 40 homes are currently being constructed by nine different contractors on the 65 lot subdivision and five homes are almost completed.

A total of 66 homes are being constructed in Pride Estates, which houses a total of 117 lots.

And as shoddy workmanship has been an on-going complaint with many new homeowners, Mr. Russell said his ministry is ensuring that all homes are inspected at least once everyday.

"The inspector here at this [Ardastra Gardensí location has already encountered some problems that was corrected to ensure that we donít have the problems that we had before. The overall work and the overall camaraderie between the inspectors, the staff from the ministry and the contractors here on site is positive and I believe that we would end up with a very good product here at Ardastra Estates," Mr. Russell said.

Mr. Richard Gibbs, the site contractor for three homes in Ardastra Gardens said with 50 years of construction experience under his belt, the government and the homeowner should be pleased once his work is completed.

"I shall have it finished in due time and Iím assuring you that when the maintenance period is up, you wonít find any defects where I would have to come back and do any work," Mr. Gibbs said.

Senior building inspector at the Ministry of Housing, Carolyn King-Williams said the main challenge in Ardastra Gardens is constructing a sub-division with "deep soil," which must be cleared to minimize cracking as much as possible.

Ms. Selena Curry, the building inspector for the Pride Estates III sub-division said most of its challenges in this area were structural but the homes are being built on good property.

"The contractors are doing a good job in terms of making sure that the floors are structurally sound and that has been one of our greatest challenges, but we are right on top of things to make sure that is being done properly," she said.

Officials from BTC, the Bahamas Electricity Corporation and the Water & Sewerage Corporation also revealed Monday that the necessary infrastructure is in place to efficiently connect each new home.

As of July 31, 2008, the Mortgage Corporation has been allocated $500,000 each month to spend on housing. A total of $75 million in bonds was also allocated to be sold at a certain rate and $15 million of this amount has so far been converted to cash, Mr. Russell told the Journal in an earlier interview.

The move to tap additional funding came after it was revealed earlier this year that the Ministry and Department of Housing owed the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation $24million.

Approximately $10 million of this amount was owed to contractors, landowners and service providers.

By TAMARA McKENZIE

News date : 11/25/2008

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