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Charity says cost is key to solving housing crisis

Multi-pronged approach: Juanae Crockwell says the issue of affordable housing is complex (File photograph)

Calls by a government minister for landlords to rent out their properties to Bermudians rather than tourists have been welcomed by a charity that provides shelter to the vulnerable.

However, the Women’s Resource Centre pointed out that the present housing shortage stems from affordability rather than availability.

The charity spoke out in response to remarks by Jason Hayward, the Minister of Economy and Labour, last week.

Mr Hayward told attendees at a Progressive Labour Party town-hall meeting that homeowners who put their properties on the tourism rental market needed to have a “change of mindset”.

He added that the Government planned to make it more attractive to rent to Bermudians.

A WRC spokeswoman said that Mr Hayward’s comments “reflect a growing awareness and urgency to address the shortage of affordable housing”.

She added: “The Government’s initiative to adjust the tenancy laws and to impose a tax on vacation properties are steps that may result in more housing availability for families.

“However, this initiative in isolation will not fix the problem of access to affordable housing because vacation rentals in isolation did not cause the problem.

“The Women’s Resource Centre has been supporting women as they search for adequate and affordable housing and what we have found is that there is no shortage of available homes. The challenge is that the homes that are available are not affordable. This is an entirely different problem.”

Juanae Crockwell, the charity’s executive director, said that the issue was complex and required “multiple initiatives, legislative adjustments and policy changes to see long-term impactful change”.

Ms Crockwell suggested that the rental market needed to be regulated.

She said: “The Government, in their 2023 Speech from the Throne, emphasised tax reform as the key to reducing the cost of living and housing in Bermuda. However, we suggest that reform of regulatory legislation and policy may have a greater impact.

“There is a pressing need to regulate the rental market in Bermuda. In addition to reform to the Landlord Tenant Act, a review of legislation such as the Rent Increases (Domestic Premises) Control Act 1978 is something that we feel could and should be explored.”

Elaine Butterfield, chairwoman of the advisory board for the charity’s primary hostel – the Transformational Living Centre — pointed out that affordable housing was defined as costing less than 30 per cent of a household’s income.

But she noted that a typical monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment was now $3,000, which was “out of reach for many in Bermuda”.

Ms Butterfield said: “As we prepare for our first cohort to move on to more independent living, we are experiencing first-hand the lack of affordable housing in Bermuda. Even having two mums share a three-bedroom apartment is way out of reach for single mums with children.”

“We welcome further conversation, revised legislation and action towards the realisation of affordable housing in Bermuda. The future of a measurable sector of our families is at stake here.”

The charity’s spokeswoman said that it was sympathetic to landlords who had been abused by unreliable tenants.

She said: “At WRC, we believe that education and ongoing support for both parties are key to improving these relationships and changing the prevailing negative perceptions related to renting to single mothers and families.

She said the WRC was keen to collaborate with the Government and other stakeholders.

“This includes engaging in dialogue to ensure that any new legislation or regulations are practical and beneficial for all parties involved — landlords, tenants and the community at large.”

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Published April 26, 2024 at 7:45 am (Updated April 26, 2024 at 6:58 am)

Charity says cost is key to solving housing crisis

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