The answer to everything on housing
On Friday in the House of Assembly, the story of the 100 Homes project in Ireland Island South continued. In the morning, I was allowed by the Speaker to give a “personal explanation” to record on the Hansard the correction of untrue statements made by the Minister of Public Works, Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch.
The minister followed up, on the motion to adjourn, with an angry, bombastic speech full of self-praise of his own intelligence, work ethic and political acumen.
All of which may be true, even if self-praise is very unattractive.
However, I was more concerned that the minister shared with us that he is also in charge of the Bermuda Housing Corporation, which I was not when I was Minister of Public Works for the year 2013. He stated that the BHC has a list of more than 400 families who are seeking improved accommodation, and that he cares deeply for the plight of those people.
They are not, by and large, homeless but they need more suitable housing; he feels it is his responsibility to provide that housing, and is therefore decrying a decision I made five years ago.
I made the decision to cut short the 100 Homes project on the basis that we were in times of austerity and also note the failure of the Grand Atlantic housing scheme because of a lack of demand. There were additionally serious irregularities in the dealings in the 100 Homes project, but that is a matter for another day. I support the minister’s call for an investigation by the Auditor-General.
However, what is confusing now are the following two facts: first, there are more than 400 families registered with BHC who need more suitable housing. Second, he has 78 empty two and three-bedroom units at Grand Atlantic.
Why is he not connecting the dots?
Why is he turning the Grand Atlantic into a boutique hotel at the cost of at least a further $23 million?
We already know the banks viewed the project as not viable. Should he not be using it for the purpose it was designed and built for?
Should he not be housing Bermudian families in the Grand Atlantic?
To add insult to injury, the Premier, David Burt, in the Throne Speech delivered on November 9, stated that providing affordable housing was a government priority.
“The need for affordable housing remains and, through the amalgamation of quangos, the Ministry of Public works will now have the ability to accelerate plans to address the continuing issue of access to and the availability of affordable housing for Bermudians,” he said. “One specific project being advanced by the [Bermuda] Housing Corporation is the construction of residences in the City of Hamilton, which will provide affordable studio and one-bedroom apartments for rent or purchase.”
Do the minister and the Government truly care for the 400-plus families? They are not going to fit into the future proposed studio or one-bedroom apartments!
Seventy-eight families could fit into the Grand Atlantic now.
• Trevor Moniz, an Opposition backbencher, is the MP for Smith’s West (Constituency 9) and a former Minister of Public Works