21% of households can’t afford homes


Tribune Business Editor


The Government has known for 15 years that land and construction costs would outpace salary/income levels, making home ownership increasingly unaffordable for a growing number of Bahamian households.

A newly-released Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) report on housing in the Bahamas and five other Caribbean countries reveals that 21.1 per cent of Bahamian households, more than one in five, cannot afford to purchase the lowest-priced house offered by the Department of Housing.

The report, entitled ‘The state of social housing in six Caribbean countries’, also highlights the “major concerns” over the access to, and availability of, land in the Bahamas given this nation’s antiquated title registration system.

It added that the current process employed by the Government for allocating Crown Land to private individuals, businesses and investors was neither efficient nor transparent.

Referring to a 2000 conducted for the Government, the IDB report said: “A housing needs study of the Bahamas concluded that a large proportion of low-income households were not able to purchase a home in 2000.

“The study also found that while their incomes would increase, this increase would be outpaced by increases in the cost of land, land development and construction.”

The IDB report, drawing on 2004 Department of Statistics data, said the poorest 4,475 Bahamian households, earning an average $2,500 per year, could only afford to purchase a single family unit costing $18,000, or a multi-family unit worth $16,500.

“The cost of units delivered to the market under the Department of Housing guaranteed loan programme ranged between $70,000 and $94,000 in 2005, which could only be afforded by households at income segment D and above,” the IDB study said.

“Thus, 21.1 per cent of households would not be able to purchase a new house at a price of $70,000.”

Based on the data employed, the total number of households in the A, B and C income segments, with average earnings of $12,500 or less, and unable to afford Department of Housing properties, was more than 20,000.

Apart from affordability and income, the IDB also identified the Bahamas’ current system for registering and recording titles as a major impediment to housing market development.

“Access to and availability of land are major concerns,” the study added. “On the Family Islands, individuals are holding land which has not been surveyed and for which they do not have registered titles.

“This has created a shortage of land for subdivisions and housing. To overcome this problem, a policy man- management function has been set up in the Office of the Prime Minister to develop a subdivision on Eleuthera, providing grants to individuals for surveying and conveyance. This pilot scheme will be replicated on other islands.”

Turning to Crown Land, and the Registry of Records, the IDB study added: “Current systems and procedures for allocating, administering and surveying Crown Lands do not allocate land to individuals to meet development and housing needs effectively and transparently.

“The complexity of the records in the Registry of Documents makes examination of titles time consuming and expensive, and inadequacies in the administration of land use records reduce land tenure security, resulting in increased cost of land market transactions and, sometimes, fraudulent transactions.

“Information on land is outdated, incomplete and scattered throughout various agencies, thus limiting its usefulness and causing duplication of effort and cost as well as inconsistencies. The country lacks a sound cadas-tre of Crown and private land holdings, and the current deed recording system does not require the registration of land transactions.”

None of this will surprise professionals in the real estate and legal professions, as the weaknesses highlighted by the IDB study have been known for years. Yet neither the Government nor the private sector have made any concerted reform effort.

A three-pronged legislative package to create a Land Registry, involving the Land Adjudication Bill, the Registered Land Bill and the Law of Property Bill, were developed under the former 2007-2012 Ingraham administration.

However, they were sent back to the Law Reform Committee and other government agencies for further review, and to account for feedback and consultation provided.

Nothing has been heard of them since, but the Christie government committed in its 2012 election manifesto to moving towards a Land Registry system in the Bahamas, describing this as “a must”.

Creating a Bahamas Land Registry, which is what the Registered Land Bill seeks to do, would move the Bahamian real estate and conveyancing market away from one based on “first to record” the title deeds.

A Land Registry would contain all information relating to a specific parcel of land in one database, including its location, dimensions, ownership interests and all encumbrances, such as mortgages and other liens/charges.

This, in turn, would boost efficiency and reduce issues associated with title problems.

The current system is creating economic problems, due to valuable land being tied up by title disputes, and a negative psychological impact on people who discover the land they own may have bad title.


lkalikl 8 years, 3 months ago

Enforce Property Tax and land will plummet in value again. That is why Property Tax exists, to prevent land banking. The government is losing so much money by not enforcing Property Taxes and all to serve their own greedy pockets and those of their rich friends, who own property and do not pay their taxes, ever. If people are behind on Property Taxes, issue a warning, if the warning is ignored, seize and auction the property. The whole real estate market would start moving again and the deficit and debt issues would be solved over night. Bahamians, it is time to fight for your country. It is worth fighting for!

newcitizen 8 years, 3 months ago

You hit the nail on the head. Effective Property Taxes and Property Standards are desperately needed. Vacant land should be taxed, and there should be no minimum for value before getting taxed. If vacant land was taxed then owners would be forced to improve it or sell it, otherwise it would simply cost them money every year. Property standards would force owners with derelict buildings to repair them or pay a fine. This would also help to clean our neighborhoods. And you are also right that properties with excessive arrears should be auctioned with the proceeds first going to cover the taxes and then any left can be passed onto the original owner. This is what happens in all of the first world. Slackness on our property taxes costs every single Bahamian.

Honestman 8 years, 3 months ago

Totally agree but they would rather fine D'Aguilar thousands of dollars for missing his VAT payment by five minutes!!! The Bahamas is indeed worth fighting for but the people have gotten so used to being abused by the political elite that they have lost confidence in their ability to effect change.

what 8 years, 3 months ago

There was a parcel information management system that was paid for and was supposed to be implemented already. The Land Use, Policy And Administration Policy (LUPAP) has been completed and should help to resolve these known issues.

TheMadHatter 8 years, 3 months ago

Under the current system - only Haitians can afford land in the Bahamas. Of course, we all know, that even under a newly strengthened property tax system - they will still pay no taxes for "their" land. Even now they got the FNM fighting to remove VAT on they rice.

The current system is maintained by the old White Knights who strive to maintain the Crown Land in the hands of Her Majesty (our Head of State [see Constitution Article 1, Section 1]) - and prevent the black people from ever truly realizing their dream of independence. You cannot be truly free if your land is still owned by your old masters. CROWN LAND. Wow. The very words should put chills down peoples' spines. But like a commenter above said - "Dey dunn yoos to dat."


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