The Home Repairs Assistance Committee has been appointed to spearhead the distribution of up to $690,000 to help residents in need to fix up their homes, but ultimately the Office of the Premier is controlling the purse strings on the programme, funded through the ForCayman Investment Alliance with the Dart Group.
“The committee is carrying out an advisory role, and final decisions are made by the Office of the Premier whether to go ahead and follow the advice given by the committee in regard to the requests that were received,” committee chairwoman Joanna Welcome-Martinez said.
Home repairs programme
The programme enables residents to apply for grants of up to $10,000 to conduct repair work on their homes, with emphasis on rectifying structural, health or safety issues, and on situations involving the elderly or children.
“A lot of people within the community are hurting, and one of the basic needs is housing,” Ms Welcome-Martinez said. “It’s hurricane season. If people don’t have proper housing, a lot of additional issues can lead on from there.”
Applicants who already received mortgage assistance grants – also funded by money from Dart – are not eligible for home repair grants “unless there are extenuating circumstances”, according to the Office of the Premier. Applicants seeking home repair grants of more than $10,000 “should present evidence of the uniqueness or severity of their case”.
Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush has said publicly that the home repairs funding is part of the $5 million given by Dart for social/community programmes, but distinct from the $2.5 million mortgage assistance programme.
While the ad did not specify a date by which to receive applications, materials released by the Office of the Premier in response to a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Caymanian Compass indicated the deadline is 20 July.
In addition to Ms Welcome-Martinez, the committee includes Kerry Lawrence, Delano Solomon, Graham Rankine and Barry Solomon, according to the Office of the Premier.
Ms Welcome-Martinez said she understood there were two other members appointed to the committee as well, but it would be up to the Office of the Premier to release their names.
According to the Office of the Premier, no record exists of a documented process for selecting committee members.
Saying she couldn’t speak to the experiences of the other members, Ms Welcome-Martinez said she didn’t volunteer for the committee, but that she was asked to serve based on her background. Ms Welcome-Martinez is customer service manager at Water Authority-Cayman, but she said her experience relevant to the committee is as director and part owner of a local development company.
“The committee is not politically related at all,” she said. “Our focus is making sure that people who need help are getting help, and are getting that help in a reasonable time frame.”
Applicants must show the property requiring repair is at least five years old, is their sole residence and is owned by them. The programme’s application form asks for address details, ownership details, information about the repairs or renovations needed, and if the nature of the problem is related to health, safety or structural concerns.
Committee members will conduct site inspections.
Applicants also must include a contractor/builder estimate for the repair work required, and agree to sign a contract with builder/contractor for the work if approved for a grant.
While the programme requires that the contractors be “reputable”, no record exists of a documented process for determining which contractors are eligible to perform the work, according to the Office of the Premier.
“Contractors are known throughout the community, and the committee will carry out due diligence on the contractors to make sure the individual is getting value for their money,” Ms Welcome-Martinez said.