Decrepit affordable homes to be demolished

Residents who must leave never received a certificate of occupancy

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More than 30 families in substandard government affordable housing in West Bay are being told to leave their homes, a few of which have no electricity or running water and show signs of mold on the walls and ceilings. 

Government is tearing down the homes – whose owners, in most cases, are delinquent on their mortgage payments – because the properties are a major potential liability. But before any more homes are demolished, there will be a meeting with residents later this month to advise them of the demolition of homes that are “unfit,” said George Powell, chairman of the National Housing Development Trust.  

“The homes are not legally occupied, and in their current state, serve as major potential liability to the government. Residents never received a certificate of occupancy,” Mr. Powell said.  

“We cannot allow it to go on because someone could get hurt down there. Houses are debilitated, old cars and dangerous metals are lying around the place, and there is a lot of infestation, which has made the place a slum.  

“We are not tearing down the homes just for the sake of tearing them down,” he said. “Government needs to demolish the rundown estate and rebuild a more modern version that meets the building code standard of the Planning Department.”  

In the meantime, he said, the National Housing Trust will work with Children and Family Services to find alternate accommodation for families while construction take place. 

Residents’ plight 

Among the Apple Blossom development residents about to be displaced is Josefa Carter, who recently sat crying and puffing on her oxygen machine as she spoke about losing her home of 10 years. Ms. Carter said she had a mortgage, but when she became ill, she became delinquent in her payments. 

Ms. Carter suffers from a heart and lung disease and can barely walk. She depends on her daughter to assist her with care. 

Two of her sons are also not in good health, and one of them also on a breathing machine. One of her sons said the home is a health hazard as mold covers the ceiling. Fourteen people live in the condemned home, including seven of Ms. Carter’s grandchildren.  

Across the street, resident Daubrene Maxwell suffers from arthritis and heart problems while taking care of two sick sons. She also has a mortgage but had to stop payment because of health issues. 

Beverly Ebanks, 66, who lives in Apple Blossom with her 67-year-old husband Mitchell, says she is too old to qualify for another mortgage and not able to go searching for a rental home. 

Meanwhile, resident Selene Paz also waits. She has heard rumors that the homes will be torn down, and like the others, she was told an appointment had been made for her at Children and Family Services by the National Housing Trust. 

Ms. Carter, Ms. Maxwell, Ms. Ebanks, and Ms. Paz all say they had secured a mortgage before moving into the houses after Hurricane Ivan in 2004. 

Ms. Maxwell said she got the home through a mortgage in 2005 after her home in Prospect was destroyed in Ivan.  

Ms. Carter also got a mortgage during that time, but by 2010 she could no longer afford to make payments. Her family lives in the home without electricity, she says, after they were refused more assistance by the Department of Children and Family Services. “We were told we had to get out of here,” said Ms. Carter’s daughter Nisby. 

Nowhere to go 

Most of the families are not upset because government is demolishing the homes, which they say are in a deplorable state. It is just that they cannot find anywhere affordable to go. 

“When we move out, we don’t know if we will ever get another house,” said Ms. Carter. “I paid my mortgage, now I [am] sick.” 

She said, “Politicians promised to help when they got in, now they don’t come. Government never tell us we can reapply; they only say ‘get out.’” 

Homes were condemned 

Mr. Powell of the National Housing Development Trust said, “I do not know how the people got into the homes in the first place. The homes were condemned [after Hurricane Ivan] and they never received an occupancy permit from the Planning Department.”  

He said 95 percent of the people in the housing scheme were delinquent in payment and whatever equity they had invested had been eaten up. 

Minister of Education, Employment and Gender Affairs Tara Rivers, who is also a West Bay MLA, visited the site Wednesday with Mr. Powell.  

“We need to ensure that there is suitable housing and environment for people to live in,” she said. She said she had no magic answers or quick fixes for the problem. 

“I think what we need to do is look at individual cases of the families and their circumstances and see how we as a government can help to facilitate. Government wants to help empower the families – if they are not in position to do so now – to be able to help themselves.” 

Ms. Rivers said the children are a key concern of hers and she is concerned about ensuring an ability for families “to create the kind the home we want our children to be raised in.” 

Windsor Park 

In 2011, government’s affordable homes built in Windsor Park were also demolished to make way for better-constructed homes. 

According to officials with the National Housing Development Trust, the government had the remaining few residents at the site moved elsewhere before demolition began. 

After that process was completed, 26 new homes were built on the George Town site. 

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Apple Blossom resident Josefa Carter uses an oxygen machine at her home. – Photo: Jewel Levy
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1 COMMENT

  1. Who is responsible for this mess? No one I guess! Who hirers the contractors, who seem to be let loose to do as they please and not adhere to any Planning Regulations! Poor people housing should not be subject to mortgages through private banks but through CIDB – all the money government pays for rent to house poor people should be invested in homes where the occupants pay a minimal affordable rent and they should sign leases just like with the private sector so they keep up the place properly and there should not be any free-hold ownership of these homes – they should be just rented to the occupants who have to be responsible for the proper day to day care of the property they occupy and the landlord/govt do regular inspections and be responsible for the water bills and electricity with a cap for the tenants usage. They should be taught that it is not an obligation but a privilege to occupy government homes – they must pay into CIDB the minimum occupancy/rent fee together with utility and water bills – government should put in their own water system – wells with pumps which would minimize costs to them and the tenants – and the tenant buy their own drinking water or boil and sanitize the well water – or install catchment tanks for rain water which they can sanitize themselves – they should have to put in some effort to their sustenance and housing done virtually free by government – they should have tenancy rules to obey – occupancy standards, etc. should be the rule of the day. Proper sanitary conditions should be part of the tenancy agreement – just because if is cheap government housing does not mean they need to turn it into a ghetto. A property manager should be appointed to monitor the government property. I know if I was given cheaply a home, I would do all in my power to keep it up, so when I demise, it can go to another poor person. This can be done to benefit poor people but the agreements need some teeth. First the construction needs to meet standard requirements of Planning Regulations. Someone in the Portfolio of Housing needs to pull up their socks and hire the right contractors/builders and housing manager.

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