‘Once the economy picks up, these houses are going to be gold’
Hundreds toured the Grand Atlantic site over the weekend, with officials facing tough questions from sceptical members of the public.
However, for Public Works Minister Michael Weeks, the steady flow of visitors was an endorsement of the ultimate value of the affordable living development.
“Once the economy picks up, these houses are going to be gold,” Mr Weeks said. “The 200 brochures we had here today are all gone, and there have been hundreds of applications of interest.”
Asked for numbers of people who had actually put money down on the 78 units available in the sprawling South Shore development, the Minister said: “The vetting process here is not a Government or Bermuda Housing Corporation process. They’re going through Butterfield Bank, like any other person looking for a mortgage.”
A Butterfield Bank spokesman last night said figures were not yet available.
With prices ranging from $495,000 for a two-bedroom garden view unit, to $645,000 for a three bedroom sea view condo, Butterfield lender Undrea Robinson was kept busy answering the same question from people who toured: how much will it cost?
“I don’t know if I’d call it affordable housing,” visitor Deirdre Otway said as she left the site. “If I pay over 25 years for one of those $585,000 ones, on 100 percent financing, that’s something like $3,900 a month.”
As an older candidate, she added, she might be paying “almost $6,000 a month” for a 15-year mortgage.
“I think these would be good for young people starting out with no children. If you’re like me who’s 50 years old, with years of clothing, I’d have to eliminate more than 75 percent of my stuff.”
“The views are gorgeous,” a friend accompanying Ms Otway said, “but one thing they should have thought of was storage and linen closets.”
With sunny seas and longtails flying past, visitors agreed on one thing: the view was good. But Grand Atlantic project manager Blake Lambert fielded questions alongside Mr Weeks, as visitors left the three-storey water view block.
“Those wooden banisters don’t look good to me,” one said.
“We found that PVC would turn brittle with all the sun,” Mr Lambert responded. “That’s Spanish cedar. It’s strong stuff.”
“You should have done cottages,” said another. “This is Bermuda. You don’t want to live joined up with others.”
Others asked why the buildings could not have been brightened up with pastel colours. Mr Lambert said the condos’ eventual owners wold eventually be able to select colours with their own condo association.
Pets are not initially allowed, except for birds but that policy could also be changed through condo associations, as could the addition of playgrounds. Such associations could be formed once more than a quarter of the condos were occupied, Mr Lambert said.
“An association would then hire a management company to handle affairs, when it comes to matters like trees and adding play equipment.”
Again, cost was the chief factor on many visitors’ minds. Mr Lambert reckoned a 100 percent financed, $495,000 unit could cost $3,200 a month on a 30-year mortgage up to $3,600 with maintenance fees.
“What happens if they don’t all get sold?” a visitor asked.
“They’ll all get sold,” he said.
As for storage, Mr Lambert said, buyers would be free to put up shelving or whatever storage they pleased.
“Down at Loughlands they’re doing their own thing,” he said. “We give them the resources to purchase an affordable home.”
Mr Lambert described Government’s financing arrangement with Butterfield Bank as giving Grand Atlantic purchasers “a hand up, not a hand out”.
“We’ve had some parties interested in purchasing entire blocks,” he said, adding: “And, when folks have mortgages rather than simply paying rent, the tendency to look after the units well increases.”
With standby generators to protect against power cuts, and features such as bulk gas storage and solar water heating for phases two and three at Grand Atlantic, Mr Lambert speculated that especially thrifty condo owners “might eventually be able get their power bought back by Belco, if they were really, really conservative”.
The open house was the first since September, Bermuda Housing Corporation Manager Major Barrett Dill said.
“The site will be open for tours daily Monday to Friday from 11am to 3pm.”
Major Dill described Saturday’s turnout today as “exceptional”.
“We had over 200 families arriving and completing attendance forms,” he said, adding: “All prospective new owners should contact lending agencies for pre approvals for purchasing one of the units.”