Eleven months after fire destroyed homes in the Mackey Yard shantytown, the government yesterday broke ground on a 66-lot subdivision that was renamed Strachan Hill's Estates. The $3.9 million development sits on 7.97 acres of land in an area just off Fire Trail Road.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said the development is part of the government's overall effort to provide housing for Bahamians. "There is a critical unmet and overwhelmingly urgent need for affordable, safe housing. Lots in this subdivision will be sold to Bahamians," said Ingraham at the groundbreaking and renaming ceremony.
Earlier this year, there were concerns the land would be sold at concessionary rates to illegal immigrants who once occupied it. On December 26, 2010, fire destroyed poorly-built homes on Mackey Yard, displacing more than 300 people. The site was primarily occupied by Haitian squatters. People who continued to squat in the area after the fire were forced to move.
Ingraham said the development is also a part of the government's effort to reclaim crown land. "The government acknowledges and accepts the legitimacy of the concerns of neighboring home and property owners in places like Mackey Yard that governments, my government and governments before mine, neglected to ensure that they could and would live in clean, well-ordered communities and, as importantly, that properties into which they have invested hard-earned dollars would be protected from squalid communities.
"The reality is that we have identified a number of squatter communities on New Providence island, all with the attendant social problems. We are addressing them systematically," Ingraham continued. He said the government will get the job done of reclaiming public lands. "Today it's Mackey Yard; earlier it was Pride Estates III. It will soon be Fire Trail Road, Sugarman Estate in Fox Hill and Dignity II on Carmichael Road. And, thereafter, it will be other places," he said.
Ingraham also revealed that the Ministry of Housing is proceeding with legitimizing land for approximately 64 squatter families in Fire Trail I and II, and in Pride Estates III. But Ingraham added that there are thousands of people who have resided on public land for generations, making it harder to evict them.
"We have had to undertake massive exercises here in New Providence, especially so in [the] Carmichael area, in Abaco, Andros, North Eleuthera, Grand Bahama and elsewhere around the country to make title available to families, some of whom, in unauthorized occupation, developed commercial enterprises," he said.
"Others constructed residences on government-owned land. In some cases families have resided and continue to reside on government-owned land without proper authorization, having done so for generations. The regularization exercise is ongoing and continuous. "Already, as many as 3,000 individuals would have received title to property upon which they have lived and worked around the country, in some cases for generations."
Minister of Housing Kenneth Russell said lots will be sold for $15,000 at Strachan Hill's Estates. The lots were offered to former Mackey Yard residents whose homes were destroyed in the fire. However, Russell said because most of the residents were illegal immigrants only three people qualified.
As a result, the minister revealed that the Department of Housing has already starting assigning lots in the planned sub-division to Bahamians who have applied for government-built homes. The subdivision is named after the family of Alfreda Strachan, who has lived in the area for about 50 years.
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