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Abaco – 900 Shanty Town Homes Set To Be Razed

Labour Minister Dion Foulkes.

Labour Minister Dion Foulkes.

By AVA TURNQUEST

Tribune Chief Reporter

aturnquest@tribunemedia.net

THE government is tasked with finding alternative housing for nearly 1,000 households in shanty towns across Abaco as the Shanty Town Action Task Force (SATF) recommits to the self-imposed deadline of clearing unregulated communities on that island on or before July 31,2019.

Despite the government’s charge that it will not subsidise the relocation of residents, local officials over the weekend observed the ambitious feat will require significant public investment to meet targets.

Preliminary numbers from the SATF’s Abaco census revealed there are 912 homes in the six unregulated communities surveyed, with the Mud and Pigeon Peas representing 62 percent of that figure.

The figures were released by SATF Abaco chairperson Maxine Duncombe, who said data on 52 households was still incomplete.

Labour Minister Dion Foulkes led closed door meetings with Abaco’s task force on Saturday at the government complex in Marsh Harbour, and established sub-committees to coordinate alternative housing and relocation, demolition works, special needs assistance, animal rescue, legal matters and public relations.

Mr Foulkes acknowledged the lack of alternative housing in Abaco during an interview with The Tribune, but noted he did not want to preempt the recommendations of the Relocation and Restoration Committee tasked with presenting viable options to the government.

He stressed the government would not be creating any housing programmes to facilitate relocation of shanty town residents, reiterating Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis’ commitment to a national housing programme that would be available to all eligible Bahamians.

Mr Foulkes said: “There is a lack of alternative housing here in Marsh Harbour, Dundas Town, Murphy Town, Treasure Cay area, very little available rental units. In New Providence, we do not have that problem. We had a lot of available units in New Providence.

“(In New Providence) the majority of the shanty towns were either already relocated or in the process of being relocated (before the court injunction). So the process was working in New Providence and I anticipate it will also work here in Abaco.”

Judicial review of the government’s decision to eradicate shanty towns is being sought by 177 shanty town residents from both New Providence and Abaco, and the Supreme Court previously ordered the government and utility providers to halt any planned evictions, service disconnections or demolitions until the court hearing.

The government’s New Providence SATF was dissolved due to looming court action, but it has continued to mobilise in the Family Islands. On Saturday, Mr Foulkes said the landowner of Exuma’s only shanty town community had voluntarily cleared the property located on the outskirts of George Town.

The SATF Abaco census was started on June 13, and surveyed communities in the Mud, with 449 households; Pigeon Peas, 184; Farm Road, 146; Sandbanks, 80; L & H, 16; and Elbow Cay, 37.

A public-private partnership could be among options presented to Cabinet, according to Mr Foulkes, who acknowledged the relocation effort could present a lot of business opportunities.

He maintained the extent of private sector involvement would be deliberated by the sub-committee.

“The government is not making any special programme for this relocation process,” Mr Foulkes said, “there is no special consideration given to this exercise.

“The prime minister has been very clear on that. We are going to do housing developments throughout the country but it will be made available to every Bahamian who qualifies.”

On Saturday, Marsh Harbour Spring City Township Chairman Roscoe Thompson said he was discouraged by the pace of government efforts which appear to be considerably slowed by the court injunction.

Mr Thompson questioned whether it was possible for Bahamians to bring action against the government for not conducting due diligence when granting or renewing work permits - a step he feels could reduce the number of residents in the Mud and Peas.

“I’m discouraged in a way with what’s happening in our township with the Mud and the Peas,” he said. “And what’s taking so long to get the residents out of the area, to move them? I’m disappointed in the government in their stance on this issue. It doesn’t just go back to Minnis, it goes back to Perry Christie, it goes back to Hubert Ingraham, it’s just a continuous ball. It just seems a lot of times it’s a lot of hot air or a lot of talk.

“Don’t get me wrong, we have to do it in a humane way and do it the legal way, but there are ways we can address this situation that we seem to be avoiding.”

However, Mr Thompson noted alternative efforts were hampered by the severe lack of rental units, which has affected teachers and other government officials assigned to the island.

Mr Thompson said it was clear the government will have to seriously consider a low-cost housing scheme, but stressed it would have to actually be low-cost to accommodate applicants on or below the poverty line.

He suggested lot prices that started at $5,000 to make it easier for low-income applicants to build a home that satisfied building codes.

Mr Thompson, a member of the Relocation Subcommittee, said: “I think it’s going to come to a point that the government is going to have to find some area where they’re going to have to develop land and open it up to all Bahamians. Is it going to be a $20,000 piece of property - it can’t be. It’s going to have to be where you fit into a bracket that you make between $7,000 and $12,000 a year.

“I don’t think they’ve really even looked at it in depth.

“Look at Spring City,” Mr Thompson continued, “that was supposed to be low income housing. How is $900 a month low income on a mortgage? They’re going to have to look at it more in depth, I don’t know what the solution is but for the government to sit here and say that they aren’t going to put any money into it, at the end of the day they will have to.”

Comments

bogart 1 week, 6 days ago

WHY SHOULD DA PORE LAW ABIDING BAHAMIAN TAXPAYERS WHO LIGHT COT OFF...HAV NO WATER....WHO GO TO JAIL FOR CRIME BREAKING THE LAW OF LESS THAN $5 .....HAVE TO PAY TO FIND HOUSING FOR ANYONE WHO BEEN BREAKING THE LAW FOR YEARS ...COSTING MUCH MORE IN CENSUS CHARGES...MEETINGS WITH OFFICIALS....PAYING BULLDOZER...POLLUTING THE LADN....DODNT PAY NO BUILDONG PERMIT FEES......??

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DDK 1 week, 6 days ago

Too right! Why the year's delay? So they have more time to back step and have more injunctions filed against them?

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bogart 1 week, 6 days ago

SEE TRIBUNE article13 October, 2017 One yesr in jail for stealing rice and tuna..............valued $3.15

Wid all due respect Minister ya done do more than enuff.....at this point....Bahamians done know when Court or landlord gets Eviction order......pore Bahamian have to put their head together an find their own shelter.......... ...ya jus sending the wrongest message for more to come..............dese people should gets dere Pastors who dey pay collection to,..?plenty Church buses...church jitneys.... wid tinted windows....get pepple who helps then to disappear as soon as their illegal boat lands.....gets whosoever in govt who mever evver ....not one single gpvt offocial ever charged in decades ever foumd doing anyting illegal...in Immigraton..or govt... aiding abbetting to get Bahamian papers straight ....out of thousands...... and...... nothing fraudlent ever found ......and persons charged......pore Bahamians tired of everybody tekking bread outta their mouts..... to pay for wrongdoing.......millions wasted...previous goovt...contracts ....projects cost overruns...200 %....300%......an it come all the way down now.... for pore Bahamian to have tax payers to have govt tasked to find housing for ....people who break da law...and others even suing the pore people gubbrrmint....mudda tek sic..!!!!!!!.....

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screwedbahamian 1 week, 6 days ago

Just have new Shantytowns created and they can all relocate there and leave the problems for the next new government and Bahamian people. We all know that is what is going to happen. The truth is the Truth for all of us who want to acknowledge it. Shantytowns and other ILLEGAL COMMUNITIES for foreigners will NEVER BE ERADICATED IN THE BAHAMAS.

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mandela 1 week, 6 days ago

Correction Mr.Thompson it's never the government putting any money up for anything, it always is and always will be the Bahamian people paying as usual for any and everything.

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BahamaPundit 1 week, 6 days ago

With these announced deadlines, the Government is just baiting for an injunction to be imposed. I wouldn't be surprised if the FNM is secretly paying the legal costs for the Haitians to contest them in Court. They obviously have no intention of destroying these shanty towns. The delays they impose on themselves for legal intervention makes this clear.

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DDK 1 week, 5 days ago

It's that something rotten in the state but not cheese again. The Government is playing the electorate for fools.

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joeblow 1 week, 5 days ago

...but yet the police will pull you over if your rear brake light is out or the tint on you car windows is too dark! The law should not be enforced selectively!

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TheMadHatter 1 week, 5 days ago

"who acknowledged the relocation effort could present a lot of business opportunities."

???? The only "business" will be monkey business and the raising of our debt from 8 billion to 16 billion before next election to pay for Haitian welfare.

Why don't we all just commit suicide and leave a big suicide note that says "Welcome to ALL Haitians - the Bahamas now belongs to you."

Thompson is right - work permits are the key. The government knows this but still keeps giving them out and renewing for over 3 years - in some cases 17 years. Look at the ferry boats in Abaco, hanging out over the rails. That government wont attack from the angle of employment proves that they only flammin. They cant live without food. Where do they get money to buy food and generator gas? That is the million dollar question. The real key.

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