Most people believe the National Housing Development Trust is broken, and that something needs to be done to repair the damage.
Opinions vary, but when more than three-quarters, or 78.4 percent, of the 171 respondents to the Caymanian Compass poll believe that the Public Accounts Committee attack on the organization several weeks ago was justified, change may be indicated.
“Yes,” 134 voters said. “The system is broken” and 15 people told us why. Few of the remarks were flattering.
Stated simply, one said, the housing trust was “a good idea corrupted by greed.” This was largely echoed by another, who said boards, in general, “should be changed every two years to avoid any conflicts of interest and also any corruption.”
Corruption appeared as a constant theme, clearly indicating a critical mass of resentment. “It was used to garner votes for the election,” said one. “Too much political interference here. Time to establish a nonpartisan regulatory regime,” said another. “The system needs a better check and balance to stop the corruption,” said yet another.
Three other voters responded with similar sentiments, naming former ministers serving in at least two previous governments. One, claiming to have worked for the National Housing Development Trust, alleged they were “clueless when it comes to providing housing.”
Two offered solutions: “The government is not fit nor qualified to provide this service, it should be done through [private-public initiatives] and competent private contractors,” said one.
Calling the current system “a shambles,” another recommended “they just build decent-quality houses and rent them, like council houses in [the] U.K. People can rent them for life and it will be income for the government. Much better than just throwing the money away like what was done. Also use the expertise on the island. Cayman has many skills, but fails to utilize them.”
Government committed two fundamental errors by building low-income homes at all, opined another voter: “The housing trust expects to empower low-income families by giving handouts. That’s a mistake, number one. Secondly, cheaply built handouts only compound the economic disaster of the business model.”
In a similar vein, another said, “Government should not be in the business of building houses. If people cannot afford to build homes on their own without government assistance, maybe they should not be homeowners.”
A final commentator criticized the residents of the homes, suggesting that the victims of substandard housing may be culpable: “Too many clients have unrealistic expectations and are expecting a handout, not a hand up.”
Ranking second in the survey, garnering only 23 votes, or 13.5 percent of the total, was the sense that improvements could be achieved if the civil service – rather than private, appointed citizens – administered the trust.
Only one voter registered a comment, however, saying the change “would halt financial abuses.”
In third position was “Other,” with a mere six votes, 3.5 percent of the total. While four respondents commented, three rejected the poll itself. Only one offered anything cogent, reflecting the same frustration as voters in the top category: “Who cares? It’s all an entitlement scam anyway.”
Fourth and fifth positions ended in a tie, each gaining only four votes, each at 2.3 percent of the total. In no particular order came “no,” the accounts committee attack on the housing trust was not justified, and “perhaps” the attack was justified. No comment explained the latter sentiment, however.
The “no” vote drew an intriguing thought: “It was a deflection tactic to reassign blame,” was the remark, suggesting a multitude of potential interpretations.
Was the committee deflecting blame from itself? Was the housing trust being blamed for the political and administrative neglect of the 2009-2013 UDP administration? Were MLAs deflecting blame from their colleagues? Was it simply easier to blame the trust rather than the minister responsible for housing?
Next week’s poll question:
Life was both harder and easier in pre-‘70s Cayman. What single feature was least bearable?
Heat and humidity without air-conditioning
No TV or local radio
Limited food variety
To participate, visit www.cayCompass.com.