Elated families move into new homes
Elated families who won a Government housing lottery in 2005 finally got to celebrate properly at the weekend, when the first completed units at Harbour View Village were officially opened.
Premier Paula Cox and National Security Minister David Burch, who is responsible for housing, cut the ribbon on Richardson's Manor, the first building to be finished at the Southside, St David's complex.
The housing lottery was launched more than five years ago to help struggling Bermudians get a foot on the housing ladder, giving winners the opportunity to purchase affordable townhouses for just $199,000.
Work began on the development in May 2007 but various problems delayed progress, including the discovery of a 540,000-gallon underground oil and sludge storage tank left by the American military, which cost half a million dollars to remove.
Winning families told over the years how they feared they'd never move in and critics took Government to task for failing to meet completion deadlines.
But, on Saturday, new residents said it had been worth the wait as they showed off their bargain four-bedroom, two-bathroom homes, complete with waterside views.
Corrections officer Tanya Dyer, 49, who will share her apartment with her four sons, aged between eight and 27, said: “I'm very, very happy. I can't even describe how happy I am.
“I moved in last week. It's been a rough ride as a single mother of four sons but I have it. I don't want to go anywhere. I'm not leaving my house.”
Ms Cox told those at the ceremony that Government and Bermuda Housing Corporation were steadfast in sticking to the promise made to the winning families, despite the challenges.
After a performance by H&H Gombeys, she said: “This is, today, a feel good factor. It's exciting, it's exhilarating.”
She said Government could have abandoned the scheme in the face of the global economic downturn but did not.
“It would have been so very easy for the Minister of National Security to come to the Cabinet and say 'look, we can't do it on the same basis, the pricing model is out, we have a legitimate reason to change the rules of engagement because the bottom has fallen out of the economy'.
“However, not once, inside or outside Cabinet, did the Minister of National Security say that to me. He has stayed that course.”
Senator Burch said he was pleased to be able to prove the doubters wrong and also to “witness the provision of homes to my fellow Bermudians”.
He said Government didn't make the original pledge: that came from the since-collapsed Bermuda Homes for People non-profit group. But he said after assuming responsibility in 2005, it stuck to its promise.
“There have been numerous occasions when this project could have completely failed through lack of funding, various site challenges and rising costs,” he added.
“But we were not deterred and sought every means to bring it to fruition. The cost of this project far exceeds the $199,000 price each family is paying but is subject to significant subsidising by Government, through the Bermuda Housing Corporation.
“So much of the criticism you hear about Government debt is for projects such as this and, for that, we are justifiably proud.”
Richardson's Manor, named after St David's Islander Hilton C “Hilly” Richardson, who set up the first school in St David's for black children, has 14 four-bedroom units.
By the end of April, three other buildings, containing two and three-bedroom apartments, should be occupied.
Sen Burch said a total of 86 homes would be provided.
“There are two additional buildings to be constructed that will house another 26 families,” he said. “Fifteen of the original 99 [winning] families have opted out of this project.”
Saturday's event saw the ceremonial handing over of keys to new owners Ms Dyer, Kelzine Butterfield and Mr and Mrs Lee Richardson.
Ms Butterfield told the National Security Minister: “Thank you for not giving up on us. You have truly made a dream come true for me. That's something I never thought I would say.”
l Useful websites: www.bhc.bm, www.gov.bm.