New housing act discriminatory, says Mitchell

New housing act discriminatory, says Mitchell
Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman, Senator Fred Mitchell. (FILE PHOTO)

The new Affordable Homes Act 2018 that passed in the House of Assembly (HOA) last week is discriminatory, according to Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Chairman Senator Fred Mitchell, who said the act should include more of the working class.

During debate on the act last week, government officials pointed out that officers of the uniformed branches and nurses will be given first priority to the more than 300 lots that will be made available for the construction of houses for first-time homeowners.

“The problem we have is that it appears that this plans is only for only certain classes of individuals,” Mitchell said.

“Of course, we welcomed any class of individuals as long as they meet the criteria … (but) there should be a more neutral category, which has no level of discrimination connected too.”

The PLP chairman said the plan to offer lots is nothing new and the former administration also provided “service lots”, the challenge however he said is for many to be able to find the funding to build.

“If you are saying its affordable …affordable to who,” he questioned.

“A service lot cost $30,000, so where are you going to find the money for that. We are saying that it is better for the government to present a product which is the house and then acceptable terms for people to access the house as opposed to the lots because the real problem that people have is finding the capital.

In his wrap-up of the act Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis said the new housing program will help to foster the “common good and create a more equitable and just society.”

Minnis added that the landmark legislation will significantly increase home ownership throughout The Bahamas, helping potentially hundreds of Bahamians to realize the long sought dream of a home to call their own.

Mitchell however is doubtful that the government will met the mark.

According to Dr. Minnis, the government has identified properties for subdivision development and the sale of residential serviced lots in New Providence, Andros, Abaco, Exuma and San Salvador. The first service lots in New Providence, the prime minister said, will be available for sale in June of this year.

“I highly doubt that hundreds will be impacted by this,” he said.

The nation’s leader added that the new housing program is also expected to encourage second home ownership in the Family Islands.

Certain materials for home building will be duty free, and the government is also seeking to provide concessions on other material such as solar panels; as part of its long-term vision for large-scale use of renewable energy.