WB housing project takes shape

Government officials turned up in
West Bay Thursday morning to perform a ground-breaking ceremony for Cayman’s
latest affordable housing project only to find houses already taking shape on
the site.

Work on the site behind the light
tower at Boatswain Bay Road began a week ago and already the foundations and
ground floor walls have already been done on many of the 27 structures that
will house some of Cayman’s poorest families.

Premier McKeeva Bush and housing
minister Mike Adam both expressed pleasant surprise at the speed at which the
construction was progressing.

“I’m very impressed with the work
done here so far,” said Mr. Adam, after he, government colleagues and members
of the National Housing Development Trust hoisted shovels to mark the
ground-breaking. “The Trust has certainly delivered this year,” he added.

The National Housing Development
Trust recently completed 12 new affordable homes in East End and plan to
construct another nine there. Affordable housing schemes are also planned for
George Town, where three sites have been identified, and Bodden Town.

Mr. Adam explained that the
criteria for being picked as an owner of one of the new homes include: being
Caymanian; being a first-time home owner; aged between 25 and 60; having an
individual annual income of $35,000 or a combined income for a couple of
$45,000. Once chosen, families must also qualify for a loan from one of the
local banks, which are working with his ministry and the Trust.

“When these homes are built and
completed, I am sure that families will be most appreciative,” said Mr. Bush,
adding that there were many more families who needed assistance in buying their
own homes in Cayman.

The site, which Mr. Bush suggested
should be named Lighthouse Gardens of Boatswain Bay, will initially have 29
homes, with room for an additional 30.

Part of the reason for the speed of
the construction of the site in West Bay was that work on the homes began first
and the corresponding roads and pavements will begin later, MLA and housing
councillor Ellio Solomon said.

“We recognised how important it was
to make sure we got the houses started as quickly as possible. We wanted to get
people working before Christmas,” he said.

A total of 19 contractors have been
hired to work on the affordable housing projects, with 17 contractors and about
120 construction workers labouring at the West Bay site.

Mr. Solomon said more than 1,000
people had applied for affordable housing.

To ensure that the buildings meet
high standards of quality, despite the speed at which they are being
constructed, a project supervisor is on site at all time and the houses are
also being checked by Planning Department inspectors, said Michael Godfrey of
Arch and Godfrey, who is a director of the Trust.

“These are concrete structures.
They meet the same standards and quality as multi-million dollar homes. They
won’t have the expensive tiling and finishing [of multi-million dollar houses],
but they meet the same construction standards,” he said.

A shortlist of potential homeowners
has been drawn up and from that the future owners of the properties will be
chosen.

Chairman of the Trust Steve
McLaughlin said he expected the first families to move into the recently
completed East End homes by February. Work on the West Bay site is expected to
be completed by the end of March, he said.

The homes, each built on lots of 4,800
square feet, will be provided unfurnished, but will contain fridges, kitchen
cabinets, cookers and other items.

The cost of the homes for the
families is still being determined, Mr. McLaughlin said.

Premier Bush, in a speech before
the official ground-breaking, said the site some years ago had originally been
earmarked for a primary school, but that had not gone ahead. Instead, it was
now being used to house families and people who had never owned homes before.

Mr. Bush said part of the
difficulty in finding sites large enough to accommodate such projects is that
families who own big tracts of land are often not eager to sell and he thanked
the Powery family for offering the site on which the affordable housing project
is being built. He also commended Minister Adam and Mr. Solomon for their
efforts in moving the projects along.

He urged the contractors hired to
work on the affordable housing schemes to hire Caymanian staff, and he went on
to urge staff to ensure they worked hard, showed up for work on time and worked
a full day.

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