0

In Uniform? First In Line For Cheap House Plots

photo

Public Services and National Insurance Minister Brensil Rolle.

By RASHAD ROLLE

Tribune Staff Reporter

rrolle@tribunemedia.net

LOTS in Sunset Close and Fox Hill worth $30,000 or less will officially go on sale in June or July, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced yesterday, adding that the lots will be available only to police officers, immigration officers, customs officers, defence force officers, prison officers, teachers and nurses in the first wave.

His statement came as parliamentarians debated the Access to Affordable Homes Bill, which would grant people not only land at reduced costs but also customs and excise duty exemptions on construction materials that are necessary for building the homes in government-owned subdivisions.

Under the programme, potential homeowners will be given two years to construct their home.

Dr Minnis said the average lot to be sold for $30,000 or less is valued at $100,000.

“Certain material for homebuilding will be duty free, which may save homeowners approximately an additional $30,000 to $40,000,” he said.

Dr Minnis said similar benefits will be given to Bahamians in the Family Islands next year looking to establish bed and breakfast businesses.

“We recognise that what’s happening today,” he said. “Foreign individuals are building second homes in our Family Islands and they are using those homes as bed and breakfast or room inventory and if the government does not take control of this matter now, ten, 20 years from today Bahamians will lose their Family Islands and tourism industry. The legislation to be brought sometime next year, the commercial component, will allow Bahamians to purchase land for bed and breakfast at reduced costs with all the infrastructure in place and they will be able to build again duty free.”

Dr Minnis said such businesses which sell only “Bahamian products as breakfast” will receive further perks.

“What is most important about the legislation that will come is that we understand that bed and breakfast means that you’re selling breakfast as part of your package,” he said. “If a bed and breakfast facility sells only Bahamian products as breakfast they will be incentivised again...We also recognise that as business starts to grow, those individuals will possibly ask for facilities as they may want to now provide lunch in addition to breakfast. In such a situation such as these, they will be further incentivised.

“However, if one non-Bahamian item appears on your breakfast or lunch menu then you will lose your incentives,” Dr Minnis said.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest stressed that despite the affordable housing programme, the government is careful not to distort the construction and real estate industries by making the benefits available outside government designated subdivisions.

“We are mindful that we also have to protect the Treasury,” he said, addressing critics wondering why exemptions under the programme won’t be given generally to people building homes in the Bahamas.

“We cannot afford wholesale elimination of duties and excise taxes across the board, otherwise we will have chaos,” he said. “So this is very targeted, intended to assist the most vulnerable, those families who are deserving, who are qualified to access affordable homes.”

Critics are concerned that under the bill, the minister of finance is solely empowered to approve applications of people seeking tax exemption benefits.

Matt Albury, chairman of the Organisation for Responsible Governance, said such a provision concerns him.

“The tendency of legislation to give ministers power of approvals is contrary to transparency and increases the potential for political favoritism,” he told The Tribune yesterday. “The terms and process needs to be crystal clear and independent of the political process. From an efficiency perspective, we have seen repeatedly that having a commission or board make decisions can streamline efforts like this. Although this is only for 300 lots in the first wave, having ministry approval would not seem sustainable in any expansion of this programme.”

Similarly, Exuma and Ragged Island MP Chester Cooper, during his contribution yesterday, said: “Why risk a politician holding something so important as this in hand and making him the sole arbiter of who is approved? Many Bahamians already live in fear of being victimised by this government.”

Mr Turnquest in turn said only the Minister of Finance has the statutory power to grant tax exemptions. He also said the bill mandates that the minister tell applicants in writing why their request was refused.

“The bill specifically anticipates that some minister may in the future, because it won’t be this one, decide that he wants to be spiteful or political or vindictive or whatever and the Act requires that minister to outline in writing why he would’ve denied such an exemption. And it could go to judicial review at the end of the day if you’re not satisfied,” Mr Turnquest said.

Mr Cooper said whatever the law’s intent, it has “fantastical” aims “when it comes to its practical application.”

“Most people can’t qualify for the $100,000 or so a local bank would facilitate for building a home especially after having to qualify for the lot,” he said. “…The lot is $30,000, the house will be, let’s say 1,000 square feet at, oh, low balling $100 per square foot for what a private contractor would charge, so we have a nice round number. That’s $130,000 for a house and the land. How many Bahamians can realistically afford that on their own through a financial institution? Now, if you say the intention is to facilitate these loans through an entity like the Bahamas Mortgage Corporation, then that makes more sense.”

Nonetheless, Housing Minister Brensil Rolle said through the law, Bahamians will be “reasonably” able to get a house for $100,000.

Otherwise, he said the cost of government homes obtained through the Ministry of Housing has been growing, increasing from $120,000 in 2012 to $160,000 five years later.

Comments

TalRussell 1 year, 4 months ago

PM Minnis and his Imperial red shirts cabinet pulls no punches they will be shutting out non uniformed comrade citizens for their $30,000 home lots..... or maybe it also includes to the exclusion citizens those on work permits? It's the people's time, has been officially declared red governing bankrupt. ( No making up tis also to the exclusion those among 91,409 voting red shirts on 10th May 2017 relegated back line - that is unless you does wears uniform... sounds like red governing leadership - has fetish uniforms }.

0

DDK 1 year, 4 months ago

They forgot THE NURSES!!! Maybe they think this is the way to get non-corrupt efficient civil service? LOL!!!

0

sealice 1 year, 4 months ago

this is so stupid - so we can't serve potatoes with any meal to get a break in the out islands? How the hell are you supposed to keep children happy without Milk?? Even the dammed corned beef you on about lately and that's considered a Bahamian breakfast!!! do you think before you open your mouths??? Good idea but really really please hire a proof reader... not trumps, not perry's, not Braves, not Bradley's, Not Freds (don't hire him either) not your existing one (you probably don't have 1) someone non Bahamian that speaks English and doesn't call everything der wibe....

0

sealice 1 year, 4 months ago

Why is it a big deal when Customs officer's get items duty free?? We all know they already have this option and bonus coupled with the bribes they get for letting their friends walk? Prison officers these guys shouldn't need incentives they make enough selling drugs and cell phones to prisoners?? Nurses they on strike right now nuff said..... Air Traffic controllers sure but when you go on strike at christmas you can sleep in the tower..... Gotta love our gubmint PLP FNM do they same stupid crap all the time every time.

0

Socrates 1 year, 4 months ago

the time has come to look at this whole issue of affordable housing from another angle. seems to me, it would be far more efficient and economical to construct affordable housing towers, say up to 10 stories, in a designated area, containing units of different sizes. you avoid the land issue, duplication of utility infrastructure, etc. you would avoid the proliferation of ghettos and could provide gym, pool facilities, a little playground on site, etc., for each block of buildings to improve the general quality of life for all residents. certainly if left to themselves, none of this will happen and the areas will slowly but surely degenerate.. such a methodology would also present an opportunity for organized school bus service to cut down on the cars and foot traffic at school hours, while providing opportunities for bus service business, etc. and mitigating the risk of abuse of duty-free exemptions, etc. some numbers need to be run, but the economy-of-scale rule would suggest this option would be better use of public money.

0

Sign in to comment