Affordable home sales increase


As published in the Cayman Compass

The greatest demand for affordable homes, like these in Windsor Park, appears to be in the George Town district. – Photo: Taneos Ramsay

Fifteen of the 20 new affordable homes in Bodden Town have been sold or are awaiting bank approval, and the application backlog that has plagued the National Housing Development Trust for more than a year has been eliminated, according to Trust records and board chair George Powell.

The Trust built 20 homes in Bodden Town in 2013. Sales have been completed on six of them, and an additional nine mortgages are under bank review, Mr. Powell said. Additionally, he said, only two of the East End homes are still available for sale, and three or four in West Bay.

“Going forward,” Mr. Powell said, “we are going to build where there’s demand.” He faulted former Trust board members for building homes when there were not enough people to buy them.

The demand is in George Town, the board chair said, the only district where all the affordable homes have been purchased. The Trust conducted a survey earlier this year, but Mr. Powell said he has not yet seen the results. The survey seeks to find out where low-income people actually want to buy a home, and he said it will be used to direct the Trust’s resources in future developments.

The Trust has changed significantly in recent years, transitioning from renting homes directly to acting as a developer. The Trust now accepts donated land from government, builds the homes and sells them to qualified low-income buyers who can borrow from a traditional bank.

“Before, the perception was [that] the government builds a house, gives you a key, and you never have to pay rent, water or electricity,” he said.

Minutes from the Trust board show that one of the Bodden Town home sales was to the family of missing landfill worker Anna Evans. Previously it was reported that they did not have to go through the standard application process.

The Trust received more than 200 applications, many dating back several years, for the 20 Bodden Town homes. Housing Trust director Julio Ramos said earlier that bringing in a new board after the last election delayed application approvals.

Mr. Ramos, in an interview last month, said, “Moving forward, I think we will reverse the process and have people qualify for a mortgage before we build the homes so that homes would not sit there empty for a long time.”

He did not respond to requests for comment by press time Monday.

First-time home buyers who make less than $30,000 a year or families making less than $45,000 a year can potentially be approved for a home through the Trust. Then they must apply to a bank for a mortgage. At the Bodden Town development, six two-bedroom homes sold for $105,000, and 14 three-bedroom houses sold for $120,000.

Mr. Powell said approved buyers get the land for free, which gives the property for a three-bedroom a value of $180,000. “You already have built-in equity,” he said.

Successful applicants are not allowed to sell the home or property for five years after purchase, he said, to avoid people buying the homes and selling immediately, making a profit off the land.

Priority for the homes so far has gone to Bodden Towners. Late last year the Trust board debated applications from Caymanian status holders or people married to non-Caymanians versus people seen as longtime Caymanians, according to minutes from the Nov. 20 meeting. The Trust had received several questions about these types of applications being deferred to the board’s finance committee. The meeting minutes state: “The Trust must not marginalize Caymanians vs Caymanian status holders. Whilst it is ideal that we seek to have the houses occupied by Bodden Towners, it cannot negate the opportunity for Caymanian status holders for home ownership under the affordable housing initiative program.”

Mr. Powell said the Trust has mainly exhausted the interest of qualified longtime Bodden Town residents and is now reaching out to other communities to find buyers for the four remaining homes.

With the new model of acting as the developer for affordable housing, Mr. Powell said, the Housing Trust should have enough money to continue building houses as buyers express interest. He said the core program to build homes is now self-sufficient and the only funding from government will be for specific items in the government budget.

The Trust will use the money from home sales to build new houses, creating a cycle of income and, Mr. Powell said, “won’t have to rely on government for funding.”