In the early 2000s, Frank McField, then the United Democratic Party Cabinet minister for Community Services, 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.
In 2011, the UDP government determined to raze the affordable homes built on the Windsor Village site and built sturdier homes instead.
A 2005 audit of the housing programme eventually led to a criminal investigation of the Affordable Housing Initiative. The investigation lasted more than three years but ended in early 2009 after an independent UK counsel determined there wasn’t enough evidence to bring charges against anyone involved.
In September 2012, Mr. McField was given the opportunity to defend himself and the programme in front of Cayman’s Public Accounts Committee. He said he felt the auditor’s report was “motivated by political expediency, to a certain extent”, and he gave explanations why decisions were made to pick and switch contractors.
Mr. McField is now an independent candidate for George Town in the upcoming election.
The Caymanian Compass asked Mr. McField for his thoughts on the status of Grand Cayman’s affordable housing programme and how it should develop in the future.
Mr. McField said, “Affordable housing for the working poor in a super expensive society is not a very achievable goal but we have done much good in starting and improving on what we originally created. As the first minister with responsibility for this project, my goal was not just to create physical structures at a cost, which would afford ownership. My goal was to achieve pro-social living environments by adding a community development element, which also required embedded community development officers in each affordable housing community. This very important requirement of any successful low income community was disabled by the PPM government between 2005 and 2009 and was unfortunately not reinstated by the UDP government.
“It was never my intention to create rental properties for the working poor since ownership creates a very essential and real stake for people in the society, their communities and properties. However, our people deserve to be assisted in realising the dream of home ownership, even when the economic sector’s depressed wages act against this goal. I therefore pledge to support the continuation of efforts to find ways to continue with the dream of making home ownership affordable to the Caymanian working poor, regardless of the mistakes, which might have been made in both past attempts.”