By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
TWELVE homes in six government subdivisions are being occupied without mortgages, The Tribune has learned.
According to Tribune sources close to the matter, the homes are located in Sunset Subdivision, 5; Dignity Gardens, 2; Pride Estates I, 2; Hope Gardens, 1; Jubilee Gardens, 1; and East Coral Estates, 1. The keys to eight of the homes were given out in 2006, two in 2004, and one in 2003 and 2007.
Sandra Storr, acting managing director at the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation (BMC), said both front and back-end mortgage lending guidelines have since been tightened to guard against further mismanagement.
The undocumented units are the remnants of a years-long regularisation process undertaken by the corporation in an attempt to recover funds spent to construct the homes, Mrs Storr said.
"As we went along over the years we regularized a lot of persons, but we still have 12 unregularized in government homes," she said.
"How it happened, that's the issue under discussion. It just happened."
"There are various reasons," Mrs Storr added, "sometimes the loan approval was in place but then we take it to the attorney for due diligence and it's discovered that some of the persons had pending judgments that they didn't mention, and you can't get a mortgage if you have something pending in court."
Applicants for government housing are assigned by the Ministry of Housing and then forwarded to the BMC for final assessment and approval. However, Mrs Storr said that the keys to government homes are distributed by the Ministry of Housing.
"There have been challenges in regularizing," she said.
"We're taking the lesser of two evils because they're already in the house and you can't foreclose on something that you don't have. When we regularize, we can legally get a mortgage."
Upon scrutiny of the unregularized homes, it was discovered that some units were engaged in a rental agreement with the Ministry of Housing, Mrs Storr said.
"We finance all housing units, we disburse the funds, but housing gives the keys and I can't tell you when unregularized residents got the keys. We're trying to recover the funds we spent," Mrs Storr said.
"Anywhere and anyhow we can get some money in, we try to get it. But it has to be recorded as rental income and collected on behalf of Housing. In a lot of cases, (residents) know what's going on when we contact them."
Last night, Mrs Storr said the challenges faced by the corporation as it moves to not only register the government homes, but collect on outstanding mortgages are symptomatic of a cultural mindset towards government-run institutions.
"Unfortunately, people are of the view that a government institution should be more lenient to the point where it's not financially prudent," she said.
"That's a mindset we wish to change, that we definitely need to change in this whole country."