Public housing defended

Minister of Community Services, Youth, Sports and Gender Affairs, Frank McField, defended his decisions concerning the Government’s affordable housing initiative in the Legislative Assembly yesterday.

Contributing to the debate of the Supplementary Appropriation Bill 2005, Mr. McField primarily spoke in rebuttal of George Town MLA Alden McLaughlin’s criticisms about the project in the House on Monday.

‘The worst thing that ever happened to the low-cost housing project is the criticism from the Opposition,’ he said.

Mr. McField said some of the people now living in the project told him Opposition members had warned them not to live there because they were not good houses.

Originally, 200 of the affordable homes were supposed to be built.

‘We completed 132 before Ivan struck,’ said Mr. McField, acknowledging that the plan had fallen short.

‘I’m not as smart as the Second Elected Member from George Town, but my heart is in the right place,’ he said.

Mr. McField said 77 of the affordable homes are occupied by 180 Caymanians in the three locations; something he said was significant in this time of a housing crisis.

Last month in an interview with Caymanian Compass, Mr. McField said the remaining homes at the heavily damaged Eastern Avenue site would eventually be demolished and replaced by higher density, multi-storey apartment complexes.

In his debate Monday, Mr. McLaughlin said it was about time someone had the sense to realise that single family homes should not be put on a prime high-density location.

Mr. McField responded by saying Hurricane Ivan had presented the possibility of improving the project.

‘We will have a three-storey apartment where we have lost our building,’ he said. ‘We are hoping to have 60 apartments where 20 homes were.’

The Eastern Avenue site was the most heavily damaged of the three locations, partially because two containers were pushed through the site destroying homes, Mr. McField said.

Otherwise, he said he thought the affordable homes held up pretty well.

Trucks going back to Jamaica

On another topic, Dr. Frank said the majority of the trucks imported for his debris removal venture, Capital Trucking, were being shipped back to Jamaica this Saturday.

He said he never intended to have them stay here, but only to help with the post-Ivan clean-up, so that he would not take work away from local heavy equipment operators afterwards.

50-Metre Pool Donation sidetracked

Mr. McField said the Government had put in the bill a supplemental appropriation of $300,000 for the severely damaged Pines retirement home.

He noted the appropriation was recommended before the law firm Maples & Calder announced a donation of $1 million for the Pines.

Mr. McField said Maples and Calder’s donation to the Pines would take the place of one they would have made for the construction of a 50-metre swimming pool.

‘We are losing it to a much better cause, although swimming is a very worthy cause, too.’

In a recess later, Mr. McField indicated he was hoping to replace the funding lost through the rerouting of the Maples and Calder donation and that he was exploring alternative funding solutions.

Dart Family Park

Mr. McField said the George Town Growing Communities park was scheduled to open on 9 April.

He announced the name of the park would be the ‘Dart Family Park.’

‘I know some people will be critical of this,’ he said. ‘But with their name attached, it will give us a certain guarantee of the upkeep of the park, which is absolutely essential,’ he said.