Affordable housing options for Sister Islands

A government-funded, non-profit company is busy working to bring affordable housing options to the Sister Islands.

‘Our goal is to assist families in securing affordable financing at lower interest rates,’ Andre Scott, chairman of the Sister Islands Affordable Housing Development Corporation, explained in a press release.

He emphasised that the affordable housing plan is not a social service programme.

‘Government has assisted by donating the site for the homes, as well as initial capital seed money of about CI$800,000 to fund construction of the first set of homes,’ Mr Scott said. ‘In addition, government will provide project management assistance throughout the planning and construction phases.’

He also noted that the corporation is finalising house plans in order to determine construction costs. ‘Depending on the quantity surveyor’s estimates and available funding, we plan to have as many houses as possible under construction, if not completed, by the end of the calendar year.’

In addition to Mr. Scott, Cabinet-appointed company directors include Buck Grizzel; Brigitte Kirkconnell; Alva ‘Billy’ Bodden; Yvonne Walton; Sidney ‘Jackie’ Ebanks; Zanda Scott; Nadisha Bodden; and Leyda Nicholson-Coe. Andrea Stevens, planning officer from the Planning Department in Cayman Brac, assists the committee as secretary.

The Sister Islands Affordable Housing Development Corporation was officially launched by government in January 2006. To date, the committee has approved plans for two- and three-bedroom homes in Cayman Brac, the release said.

The plans were designed by Justin Bodden, assistant works manager from Cayman Brac’s Public Works Department, and Tristan Hydes, project manager with the Ministry of District Administration, Planning, Agriculture and Housing.

Comprehensive plans

The company is now working on comprehensive plans at the two designated sites: Watering Place and West End. Watering Place will hold about 15 homes and is nearly ready for construction, with infrastructure including roads, utilities and street lighting. West End, which is currently at the surveying stage, will have room for 20 to 30 homes.

‘Each home will offer good-quality concrete construction. Also, all homes will be built on single-family freehold house lots, so that successful applicants will own their own home and land outright,’ Mr. Scott noted. The two-bedroom plan has built-in flexibility to add a bedroom if a family grows.

Regarding the construction of the houses, the company will conduct a public-tender process among contractors.

‘We hope that local contractors will bid as near to those costs as possible, in order to guarantee value for dollar,’ Mr. Scott said, adding that local contractors will be used as much as possible.

While the homes are being built, Mr. Bodden and Mr. Hydes – who are also on the project management team – will ensure quality construction standards are met by conducting onsite inspections, the release said.

Applicants will be pre-approved by the company, and assisted to secure financing from a financial institution. Once an applicant has received approval from the lending institution, the company will sell the land and house to that person.

Since January, the company’s directors have solicited and received letters of interest from Cayman Brac residents eager to be part of the project. The directors are now developing an application form, which they will send to those who have expressed interest in participating in the programme, Mr. Scott said.

He noted that letters of interest must provide applicants’ names and contact information; an explanation of their interest in the program; a summary of their current living conditions; and their current employers. Letters should be addressed as follows: Sister Islands Affordable Housing Development Corporation, c/o P.O. Box 235 SPO, Cayman Brac

Although it might seem easier to speak with company directors on the street, Mr. Scott said it’s important that interested parties confirm their interest in writing.

‘It’s best to use the mail for any enquiries, to ensure the board can properly record and follow up requests,’ he said.