EDITOR, The Tribune
Considered by American historians as one of the final great legislative achievements of the civil rights movement, the Fair Housing Act of 1968 was signed into law by President Lyndon Baines Johnson on April 11 (1968), seven days after the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. The goal of this groundbreaking legislation was to end residential segregation in North America. Some 53 years after the passing of the Fair Housing Act, the Free National Movement (FNM) government of former Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis revealed to the Bahamian people his government’s plan to develop a middle-class residential community in New Providence called Prospect Ridge.
The development would feature 300 95×100 lots that would be valued at $150,000 once the infrastructure was built via tax dollars. With multi-family lots costing $50,000 and single family lots $40,000, coupled with a two-year real property tax exemption and a waiver on customs duties on building materials, no one should be shocked that 1,500 applicants have signed up for the government funded initiative. Home ownership in New Providence, with its limited land, is a massive accomplishment for young and old Bahamians. In this regard, Minnis meant well in wanting to rebuild the middle-class.
However, where he went wrong was unwittingly putting in place discriminatory requirements that would allow only a certain privileged demographic to take full advantage of a development that would be funded by all Bahamian taxpayers, while prohibiting others. By limiting the purchase of lots to first time homeowners between the ages of 18 and 45, the Prospect Ridge project would amount to nothing more than a residential segregation experiment. Moreover, I read in one of the dailies that connected to this project is the so-called Committee for the Development of Communities for Young Professionals. The existence of this committee implies that only professionals can apply for a Prospect Ridge lot. So if you’re an auto technician, welder, farmer, taxi cab driver, plumber, sanitation worker, cashier, electrician, beautician or fisherman, you need not apply.
Prospect Ridge isn’t for blue-collar workers or even professionals over the required age, whose tax dollars will be used to absorb the loss of much needed revenue to the national coffers in order to dole out jaw-dropping concessions to a certain privileged class of Bahamians. This is called class discrimination or classism, which goes against the fundamental tenets of our constitution. With the ongoing back and forth between the FNM and the Progressive Liberal Party administration regarding allegations that the former left no master development plan in place for the project, the Davis administration would be wise in following the example of Lyndon Baines Johnson in removing the discriminatory elements from this initiative. All Bahamians should be allowed to purchase land in Prospect Ridge, not just a privilege few.
Freeport, Grand Bahama
October 21, 2021.