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Prime Minister Tables Bill For Low-Cost Homes

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Deputy Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net

NEARLY three months after unveiling his administration's plans to offer extremely low-cost lots to potential first-time home buyers, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has tabled the Access to Affordable Homes Bill 2018 in the House of Assembly.

The bill, presented on Wednesday, seeks to promote greater access to affordable homes through the grant of certain exemptions for the building of homes on land situated within a government-owned subdivision. It would apply to instances where the subdivision has been provided with all the necessary infrastructure for essential services.

In addition, it will enable applicants to be eligible to enjoy exemption from customs duties and excise tax on the import of any and all materials necessary for the construction of a dwelling on the land. The bill says this would apply for a period of two years from the date of the approval from the minister or within the extended period. A certificate of occupancy must also be issued, the bill says.

The legislation, once passed, will also provide for a resumption of title by the minister of housing and possible equal restitution should a person fail to complete a home within the specified period and will provide for offences and penalty.

However, the bill seems to grant absolute powers to the minister of housing when it comes to consideration for approval.

"Where the minister is satisfied that an application relates to a designated subdivision, the minister shall grant the approval of the application subject to the provisions of this act and to any such continues as the minister sees fit," the bill notes.

The minister can also decide to refuse an application made on the provisions of this bill. A notification would then be sent notifying the applicant of the rejection.

Regarding penalty for contravening the law, an offence would be punishable by a fine of twice the value of the concession provided under this act or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months or to both.

Either of these penalties would not limit the power of the minister to rescind the approval for exemption of customs duties and excise taxes.

In addition, the court would be given the power to make a confiscation order or demand direct payment to a public body for the value of any property obtained by the guilty person or entity.

Back in January, Dr Minnis announced during a national address the government's plans to support access to affordable housing.

At the time, he said: "They (new homeowners) may utilise their own architect or utilise pre-existing plans offered by the government. The potential homeowners will have two years to build their homes at duty-free concessionary rates. Because the lots will be inexpensive, we expect scores of first-time homeowners to take advantage of this programme.

"The programme will be extended to Family Islands thus encouraging Family Island ownership, second home ownership, and entrepreneurship development of bed and breakfast properties."

Up until this point it was a long-standing policy of the government to offer low-cost homes to Bahamians, with the Department of Housing tasked with facilitating the construction of affordable housing to low and middle-income Bahamians.

The lots under the new programme will be offered at a cost less than $30,000, Dr Minnis said in February.

Housing Minister Romauld Ferreira said the plots of land would be offered in May.

Twenty lots would be up for sale in the Sunset Close extension just behind the Carmichael Road Post Office, at Carmichael Village - Carmichael Road West and in the Lionel Davis Development at Fox Hill.

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