Editorial for 10 May, 2011: Good intentions, bad execution

In the early 2000s, Frank McField, then a United Democratic Party Cabinet Minister, spearheaded a multi-million dollar initiative to give low-income Caymanians a chance for home ownership.

The initial phase of the project, which was built on three different sites, consisted of 200 homes. Sixty-eight of those homes were never built and many more were destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.

We have now learned that the government will raze the affordable homes completed on the site in Windsor Village and build better constructed homes instead.

Although this shouldn’t come as a surprise – the severe maintenance problems with the previous affordable homes have been known for a while – it serves to point out what can happen when established government rules and guidelines are ignored for reasons of expediency.

This newspaper believes Mr. McField genuinely wanted to give less fortunate Caymanians the opportunity to experience home ownership. However, he went about it in the wrong way and, if there were any doubt about this previously, the announcement that the subsequent UDP government will now raze homes that were only eight years old is final proof.

In several special reports, former Auditor General Dan Duguay detailed the many problems with the way Mr. McField’s affordable housing initiative was executed, including the lack of a proper business plan, the lack of competitive tender and the lack of prior approval from the Planning Department when using alternative materials and methods.

Mr. Duguay also found problems with the way buyers were selected for the homes, with some people having no income to pay for their purchase. As a result, non-payment was rampant.

Now, with a new Cabinet Minister – Mike Adam – at the helm, the UDP government will attempt to get the affordable housing initiative right. We have confidence Mr. Adam’s team will do much better than the first effort.

But the question remains, with private sector entities like Frank Hall Homes building very affordable homes already, should the government really be involved at all.