WB homeowners proud

Affordable housing won’t be sold

Homeowners and renters living at the West Bay Affordable Housing Initiative site say they are glad to be there and that the neighbourhood is not a bad place to live.

West Bay

Initiative home. Photo: Alan Markoff

Several of the residents there were interviewed Saturday, just days after Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts announced on the radio talk show ‘Straight Talk’ that the homes would only be rented out in the future, and not sold.

Many homeowners have planted landscaping and decorated their homes, giving the area the look of a suburban neighbourhood.

‘The houses are pretty good,’ said homeowner Lucy Kelly. ‘Some of the neighbours complain that they’re cheap and that water comes in because they’re not caulked properly, but I fixed mine.’

Some of the affordable homes in West Bay are showing rust spots through the stuccoed exterior walls.

Mrs. Kelly’s house shows no rust spots.

‘I keep up my house,’ she said, noting that her husband had repainted the exterior.

Another homeowner, Kervin Ebanks, said he was glad to have the home, and does not believe he could have owned a home here in Cayman if not for the Affordable Housing Initiative.

Mr. Ebanks’ home, along with the homes on either side of him, show rust spots on the exterior walls. Mr. Ebanks surmised Hurricane Ivan had something to do with the rust.

His main complaint, however, dealt with the condition of the roads in the development.

There are many potholes in the road, and since the road was only sealed with the chip and spray method, it kicks up a lot of gravel and dust.

‘I wash my windows one day, and they’re dirty again the next day because of the dust,’ he said.

Eighteen-year-old Jevon Nichelson lives in one of the houses with his sister Keisha Ramkissoon. The house is the first his sister has owned, he said.

Mr. Nichelson also commented about the condition of the roads, but that was not his biggest complaint.

‘The house is hot if you don’t have a fan,’ he said.

Still, Mr. Nichelson said the neighbourhood was not a bad place to live, and neither was the house.

‘It’s not the best of the best, but it’s not the worst of the worst either,’ he said.

Leroy Bodden moved into one of the homes less than a month ago along with his wife and two school-age children. He’s renting the house for $700 per month.

Mr. Bodden thinks the neighbourhood is quiet and the house is ‘nice’ and much better than one he had in Columbia, where he has also lived. His biggest complaint, like Mr. Nichelson, is the heat in the house.

‘It needs a/c or fans,’ he said.

His wife Jacqueline said the home was the best she lived in since Hurricane Ivan. She lived in a house missing part of the roof first, and then lived in a temporary trailer next to the Ed Bush playing field after that.

If given the opportunity to own the house, Mrs. Bodden said she ‘wouldn’t mind it at all’.

Chairman of the National Housing and Community Development Trust Leonard Ebanks said the houses would not be sold partially because of concerns of their life expectancy.

‘Having gone through Hurricane Ivan and being exposed to some salt, we do have some concerns about the homes,’ he said.

Mr. Ebanks said he did not know for certain what would happen long term with the rust situation, but said his approach would be not to compound potential problems by selling more homes until they did know more.

‘We want to make sure were on the right path,’ he said.

One contractor familiar with the project said he felt rust would be a major problem in the future.

Clarence McLaughlin of C & R Building and Renovation had the contract for building the cement foundations of the AHI homes and is familiar with the construction materials used.

‘They used the wrong materials,’ he said. ‘You can’t build houses here out of metal. Homes here are built out of wood, block or concrete.’

The AHI homes were built using insulated metal panels fabricated off island. Homes were built in Cuba using similar materials without apparent rust problems, but Mr. McLaughlin thinks that is because they were built farther away from the salt air.

‘It’s my understanding they were built far inland [in Cuba],’ he said. ‘Here in Cayman, you’re never more than two or three miles from the sea.

‘The salt spray in Cayman with the wind blowing is outrageous.’

Rust will be an increasing problem with the AHI homes, Mr. McLaughlin said.

So far, the homes have only shown rust on the exterior, but Mr. McLaughlin believes that eventually, the rust will come through on the inside.

‘It’s only a matter of time,’ he said.

Chairman Ebanks said the NHCDT does not intend to forget about the current AHI homeowners.

‘We’ll try to maintain the site the best we can,’ he said, noting that some of the homes were repainted recently. Getting spare parts, however, is proving to be a problem, he said.

Should the homes start deteriorating significantly, Mr. Ebanks said he wants to see the homeowners protected in some way.

‘I have some ideas on ways to transfer equity,’ he said.

Regardless, Mr. Ebanks said he likes what he sees in West Bay, where homeowners are taking pride in their homes.

‘It’s very positive,’ he said. ‘There are some issues, but there are issues in every community.’