Affordable housing stalled

| 25/09/2013

(CNS): The problems relating to building truly affordable homes that  people on low income can actually buy still exist, according to the National Housing Development Trust general manager, Julio Ramos, who explained to Public Accounts Committee last week that there are still significant  issues surrounding the initiative. After several years of turmoil, Ramos revealed that with no board in place for quite some time and no new policy directives about how the not-so-affordable housing initiative can now go forward, the Trust’s work is stalled. He said there are 41 people still living in homes declared unfit for human habitation and new tenants in the government's housing project are renting and not able to buy.

This has raised concerns among many of the new tenants, one of whom recently contacted CNS to say that some of the government’s tenants who wanted to buy their homes and moved in on the premise of a 'rent to buy' transition are now moving out because they cannot afford to pay rent and invest in a property that they will not be allowed to buy.  The former tenant said that he and many others now believe they were tricked into the homes under the impression of 'rent to own' when they paid the deposits and collected the keys.

“TheNational Housing Development Trust claims these low income homes were for people that couldn't get or afford a mortgage but who would be able to afford these homes. But I was living in one under the impression of rent to own, but clearly that was just another way for people to take these houses to build up government's budget in my opinion,” Ruben Whittaker, a former tenant, told CNS recently after he was forced to move out. He said that what were meant to be socially affordable homes were turned into expensive rentals.

Despite the promise of better quality homes with the new wave of properties built during the previous administration, Whittaker said that the houses were poorly maintained and the Trust took a long time to address the frequently needed repairs. Whittaker said that something had gone seriously awry with the initiative and the poor people investing rental money now understand that they won’t own.

“The houses were built to get Caymanians on a path to own their home but no one in their rightful mind would go and rent from the government if it was just rent. We would have gone elsewhere and rent places that came furnished,” he added, referring to the hardship of having to buy furniture and appliances on low incomes. Whittaker said that after frequently enquiring with the trust what the status on the rent to buy issue was, he got little response. Seeing a red flag, he made the decision not to spend any more money on the property and moved out.

During the PAC hearing last week Ramos indicated that the policy goal was still 'rent to buy' but it had not been sanctioned and he did not know what would happen next until a new board was functioning. However, he pointed to a significant number of problems.

Ramos said he had families occupying 41 of the old condemned original AHI homes that could not be re-housed in the new properties because they were not in good standing with their rentals. He said the trust needed some direction about what to do with these government tenants who owed back rent and could not, under the current policy directive, be re-housed but who were living in substandard properties. Ramos said this was a major problem but no one had any solutions or suggestions on how to fix it.

With the trust struggling to collect its bad debt, he said that it was now forced to lease the empty newly-built homes to new tenants as the 'rent to buy' programme had been placed on hold, even though he admitted that tenants had been selected on that basis. The issue of the affordability of the homes has also undermined the 'rent to buy' policy because the homes are far more expensive than the original properties.

Although there has been no official government announcement about a new board, Ramos told the committee that he believed it had just been appointed and this issue would be the top of the agenda for its first meeting. Ramos spoke about the frustrations of his position, as his many recommendations to the past board were ignored.

Answering questions from the committee about the scandal of board fees, he said the directors had voted themselves a massive fee increase for their meetings but had never justified that decision.

In October 2011 the board was embroiled in a major corruption scandal and the deputy chair was eventually arrested and charged with theft. Edlin Myles is scheduled to be tried in the case later this year, having been accused of using his position on the board to con new tenants into buying insurance from him. Following his arrest and the subsequent investigation into the entire trust and board, a number of concerns were raised about what had been going on.

Auditor General Alastair Swarbrick also found that $4.2 million worth of contracts had been awarded and funded with public cash during the previous government to build the new homes. However, no tendering process was ever completed as the project was broken down into individual house by house contracts and pre-cleared local contractors were all given a chance to build one of the homes.

Swarbrick described this as “a novel way to procure services” but recognized that this was a social programme and the policy behind it was not only to provide low cost homes but work for local contractors. Nevertheless, the auditor said, the trust should have engaged the CTC when it made a decision to tender the contracts in such an unusual way.

The minister with ultimate responsibility for the initiative at the time was the community affairs minister, Mike Adam, but the direct political oversight had been passed to George Town backbench counsellor Ellio Solomon.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Tell me again why the poor are entitled town property?

  2. Solja Crab says:

    This program has always been one big scandal. When a very capable young man in the Brac took over the management of the Affordable Housing Program he appeared to be very meticulated and qualified for his position. It was then rumored that a certain MLA at the time were getting too involved with board decisions. This MLA consequently fired this man and replaced him with a very unqualified individual for the post. There was also evident favortism in the Brac, with homes being given to people who had obvious affiliations with elected members. To the Auditor General, this program needs to be monitored with the utmost scrutiny. You honestly have no idea what goes on in the Brac within this program…let alone Grand Cayman. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Don't worry, with the way work permits are being interfered with now there will be plenty of incredibly cheap housing left soon. Just very few will have a job to pay rent or a mortgage, but hey, no worries, there will not be any expats…thats good, right?

    • Anonymous says:

      Ouch the truth is out. Most of the homes in Cayman Brac went to civil servants who have afforded have their own houses built.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Low income home owner ship is not reality. If you are poor it is for a reason. Perhaps the homes should just be given away. While I am at it  will it allways be up to the govt of the day to maintain the free home and pay the utility?

    It really dosnt matter at the end of the day Cayman is in for an economic adjustment in a few years due to rising interest rates and the mortgage product they sell in Cayman. In other words when peoples mortgages start adjusting and they can no longer afford the payment homes will be lost it is coming sooner that later I would suggest you start preparing.

    • Anonymously says:

      Giving away house to any expat that want it with a job and wants PR and status but does not have property to qualify (certain condition apply – write an essay as to why you should be the successful applicant: to include your basic info., first initial, last name and occupation.  Do not include your first name or employer). In GT within walking distance to Smith's Cove for additional info email

  4. Anonymous says:

    "…there are still significant  issues surrounding the initiative…"


    The whole thing reeks of incompetance and corruption… to bottom.

  5. Anonymous says:

    What is wrong with just renting and apartment or a house somewhere that one can afford? Why does everyone need to become a homeowner who is then likely unable to maintain the upkeep of the house? Most of Europe lives in rental apartments and a lot of them do so for life! If you can't afford to buy a house you can't afford it. End of story.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yes, and to use the European, or at least UK, analogy, this is council housing. And, yes, there is an option to buy couil housing. Every country wrestles with this problem and has soemthing similar, just we all do it differently enough to point fingers and say 'theirs is better'. (Since I know people who don't like the UK council house system.)


      While I agree that societies need to have a robust discussion about low-cost / council housing and rental-vs-ownership pointing fingers and trying to make it sound like Cayman's system (or at least the goals of the system) is unusual, when its not, doesn't help. It just gets people's hackles up.

    • Anonymously says:

      This is true and government should stop the practice of strata for deplexes,  this is a real rip off.  The same practice that is done in Canada with duplex should be done and treated like two properties where each individual is responsible for the upkeep of their side.  Strata should only apply for multi units of five or more of the same size.  Government need to change this law because people are being cheated by this policy expats and Caymanians alike. Official complaints will be made to the government, real estate association and other organizations overseas if necessary so that people wishing to purchase part of a duplex as they do in Canada are not left being cheated as they are in Cayman especially if you did not get a mortgage and did not engage the services of an attorney who is experienced in conveyance.  Beware or you will be taken for a ride, buyer beware.

    • Anonymous says:

      Let me know anytime you want to swap the security of ownership as you get older for wasting that on rent money now.

      The only people pushing this idea are the same that pushed the collaterizations of home loans with unrealistic rates hikes buried in the mortgage contracts that caused the collapse of the US economy.

      You dont want to fess up to fleecing the middle and lower classes, because whar you are liable for would put you in the poor house, so you just try tominimize the situation and push those disenfranchised to a slum lord, Economic Slavery. 



  6. noname says:

    Next time let Dart do it.

    • anonymous says:

      It seems like any home grown, local initiative soon plummets into a pit of broken down, half finished goat f@cks with a hint of corruption.

      This is not the first time that this schemehas  been questioned.

  7. Truth says:

    Pathetic.  Incompetent.  Totally corrupted.  But suitably competent for the job.  This is the New Caymankind.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Anything done the NORMAL government way is NOT affordable.  Stop the corruption and abuse.  Get competent over suitably qualified.  Or continue to show your complete incompetence and have the UK save you from yourselves.

  9. Anonymous says:

    another glorious day for cig and the civil service……. direct rule please!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Home ownership is not a right.  If you can't afford it, why should the state subsidise it?

  11. Ruben says:

    Thank you CNS more to come becausethe public needs to know what is going on  Highway robbery  these politicians talking bout they helping us caymanians they helping them self and families first . Like I tell everyone I come across these politicians parties  are only draging  cayman deep into more s**t then we are in there will be days where we wont have jobs to go to or homes to live in , days where the we wont be able to pay our light/water bills  . We oing be forced to leave cayman and live in another mans country  cayman isn't for caymanians anymore if all of us was to stand up and fight four our rights like out Caribbean countries like Trinidad, Jamaica , Guyana and much more , start riots  by blocking roads and burning tiers out the  airport And make the tourist seee . Plans can land and take off but can't exit the airport  I beat you they would straighten up  because cayman depends on tourism  and wouldn't want to loose that 

  12. Anonymous says:


    Low income, huh? So why does the house in the photo have a $500 front door when you could get a nice 6-panel door for $200? Why are they using colonial insulated windows at $200 each when you could get a single glaze for $125. Expensive stucco finish, guttering, shingles… Just by looking at the photo I could knock $10,000 off the price to build and still meet code. You can still build a quality home without using high end finishes, for what the board members were paying themselves, clearly, they had no clue what they were doing. 

    I hope CNS will publish the names of the board members so everyone knows who these guys are. 


    • Anonymous says:

      At the end of the day low income does not equal low quality so although I see where you are trying to take this how do YOU know that something of less priority inside was not sacrificed in order to provide suitable protection (double-glazed windows). Low income can still be nice and appealing and not sacrifice quality as you seem to be suggesting. So instead of shingles, what did you want to put on the roof? Zinc? With regards to the "expensive stucco finish" did it ever occur to you that it was cost effective rather than just slapping some paint on there and then the homeowner has to repaint every few years rather than just having to power wash the stucco?

    • Anonymous says:

      They could have also substituted the blocks for texture 1-11 plywood and white pine studs for the walls – but then YOU would complain that they were too low quality and that Govt should have used blocks because when hurricane comes the wood house would have been blown down!!


      You cant please some people…

  13. Anonymous says:

    A damn shambles. I know a few of these people wanting these homes and they are the total deadbeats that embarrass us all as Caymanians- wanting something without being able to pay for it because as Caymanians they are entitled to it. One is a bus warden-got the job because she has squeezed out many kids over the last 30 years to different men (one a prominent male), not able to look after them and never had a job until Government gave her the bus warden job and free housing. She proudly uses her social services food stamps in Fosters and cusses foreigners for taking away jobs she could have.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Why is it Caymanians cannot organise and implement honestly anything that is remotely successful? This whole thing is disgusting and a disgrace to us all.

  15. Anonymous says:

    The trouble in Cayman is caused by the banks demanding 20% down on a mortgage.

    People rent for 1200, while they could buy the same house for 800.


    • Anonymous says:

      Having red of the efects of 'predatory lenders' in the US I don't think 20% down payment is a bad thing. If you can't save enough on top of your current expenses to achieve the 20% in a few years you're going to have a hard time paying the loan and insurance and other costs not covered in your rent when you do get the loan and stop paying rent.


      My old monthly bill was: rent + contents insurance + utilities + saving

      My new monthly bill is: mortgage + contents insurance + building insurance + utilities + maintainance costs.

      I'm 'paying' as much now as I was 'paying & saving' before. Only difference is my 'saving' is going in to my house instead of the bank.


      If we as a society want people who can't make the 20% to own a house we need to have a low cost hosuing scheme. The question to debate is whether society wants it enough to pay for it?

    • Solja Crab says:

      The trouble in Cayman is some Caymanians feel they are OWED SOMETHING.


      Support the economy, RENT AN APARTMENT!

    • Diogenes says:

      Damn banks expect you to repay the mortgage as well.  How selfish can you get.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with you 100%. The banks will gladly give a young person a car loan, credit card etc… but if it's a house you want the requirements/down payment are through the roof.