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The former chairman of the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation (BMC) is praising the affordable housing plan being proposed by the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP), saying that cutting expenses by 30 to 40 percent is a reasonable target to shoot for.
Dr. Duane Sands told Guardian Business that the initiative is a step in the right direction, but consistency in this effort will be key.
"The homes that are typically provided to low and middle income Bahamians tend to be more expensive than they can afford, so we really need to look at alternatives to building by using different materials or different methods of building to make things less expensive," Sands said. "However, the conversation leading towards the implementation is even more important because the discussion can become diverted for all sorts of unreasonable purposes.
"The key is to stay on the spirit of providing safe, affordable housing."
Sands' comments comes after Governor General Sir Arthur Foulkes delivered his speech at the opening of Parliament regarding the government's plans to improve the housing sector.
According to Foulkes, amendments will be enacted to the Subdivisions Act in an effort to make the building and planning process more fluent and cost-efficient. Additionally, the Rent Control Act will be reformed to promote the construction of new rental units at more affordable prices.
Sands mentioned that identifying what types of homes will be the ideal model for the government is critical.
"Whether it be smaller and simpler homes, the government must consider what is absolutely necessary in The Bahamas," he said. "We have a concept of a home already, but unfortunately, for many Bahamians, they are not going to be making enough to sustain a high mortgage."
Affordable housing doesn't necessarily mean that every Bahamian is automatically financially capable to purchase a home, and some sort of way to filter those people should be considered.
Sands said in an earlier interview that BMC should have veto power, where the corporation has the option to reject any housing proposals that can't be realistically funded. Arrears for the BMC account for 34.5 percent of its total portfolio according to its latest financial statistics. He also mentioned that the BMC shouldn't fall under the umbrella of the Ministry of Housing.
While the government's vision for affordable housing will likely be revealed in the annual budget communication on May 30, Sands supports the decision of the government to make efforts in that area.
"I applaud the prime minister for recognizing that affordable housing deserves more alternative approaches," the former BMC chairman said. "If they can stay on track with the discussions, then this will a good thing for Bahamians."