By DENISE MAYCOCK
Tribune Freeport Reporter
FREEPORT - The government is actively pursuing development of an additional 100 low-income housing lots at a Freeport subdivision, Minister of Housing Kenneth Russell announced.
He said notice has been given to the Grand Bahama Port Authority of acquiring some more lots in the Heritage Subdivision at a cost of $1 million.
Mr Russell said the government continues to place much emphasis on housing in Grand Bahama, having spent just under $8 million over the past two and a half years developing six subdivisions on the island.
On Thursday, the first phase of the new Wellington Pinder Heights Subdivision was officially opened. Some 58 homes completed the first phase and ground was broken on the second phase, which will comprise around 50 homes.
During his address, Minister Russell also noted that some 80 lots are available for sale at the new Freetown subdivision in East Grand Bahama.
Work on a park for the subdivision will start before Christmas, however, he noted that the ministry will not build any houses unless people come forward to buy the land or get funding for the land and housing.
The same, he said, applies for the High Rock and McCleans Town subdivisions.
"We will not go to East End and build a bunch of houses...without having persons come and pre-qualify.
"We did that in West End and some of the houses sat for 10 years before they were occupied. It is a waste of money for houses to be sitting around for 10 years," said Mr Russell.
He noted that persons with Crown Land can present their deeds to the property and the government will build the house for them once they qualify for a mortgage.
Mr Russell said the Ministry of Housing is also planning to develop waterfront lots at McCleans Town and at Pine Forest in Eight Mile Rock.
He explained that the status of the subdivision in Eight Mile Rock would be raised tremendously.
While pointing out that the Ministry of Housing has achieved much success, the minister has admitted that all has not been "rosy" for the housing programme in Grand Bahama, Nassau, and to a lesser extent in Abaco.
According to Mr Russell, the ministry has been required to repair 60 houses in the Heritage, Sunset, East Coral Estates, Forbisher Circle, Pine Forest and the West Height Subdivisions.
"We want to urge builders to be competent and take pride in their workmanship. We have learned much from the past and we have now in place new measures designed to mitigate against poor construction and the resulting drain on the public purse," Mr Russell said.
He noted that testing in various stages of construction have been implemented, inspections of plumbing and electrical, and modifications have been made to house plans to mitigate problems that have developed in the past.
Mr Russell said his ministry has also joined forces with the Ministry of Environmental Health to reduce termite infestation in new houses.
"I am pleased to say the results we've gotten so far from the testing we put in place are working beyond our expectation," he said.
Mr Russell said the houses in West Heights, Pride Estates, the second phase of Dignity Subdivision, and the new Sunset subdivision in Nassau are among the best ever houses built by the government.
"There is no sense having citizens purchase a house which is in need of major repairs after one year and causing the government to spend $40,000 to $60,000 in repairs," he said.
Mr Russell called on qualified builders not registered at the Ministry of Housing to register.
"Builders who are interested in moving forward with us must be an approved builder under the Ministry of Housing list. You must become a Housing registered builder because we cannot contract you unless you register with us at Housing," he said.
While there is room for improvement, Mr Russell said the ministry is in a good place with respect to the housing programme.
"As long as I sit in this chair as Minister of Housing, I will continue to ensure that Grand Bahama gets its share because Grand Bahama has suffered much over the past 10 years as a result of the economic downturn, and we have to do what we can to keep people working," he said.