Housing Trust wants more gov't housing

Reporting recent strides with its affordable housing programs and the relaunch of government-backed mortgage assistance, the National Housing Development Trust’s board of directors is calling on government to develop a new facility to help low-income people with housing.

The Housing Trust reported last week that 21 of the 107 homes it built in 2004 remain occupied. All the homes have been condemned and most have been torn down. The insurance provider for the homes, according to the report, stopped covering the buildings because the houses continue to deteriorate.

The Trust’s statement notes, “NHDT has no plans to evict existing tenants, although none have made any payments for a long time; at the same time, they may leave voluntarily if they are able to locate improved accommodations.

“Their safety remains a major concern and NHDT is poised to have them transported to safe shelter, should severe weather or a hurricane threaten Grand Cayman.”

“There still remains a need for housing in the community,” the board members write, but they say the Housing Trust cannot address those needs under the current law. They say government should step in to develop a new facility to give housing to low income, elderly and handicapped residents, and those who “presently reside in a condemned old AHI home, and are unable to service any mortgage with a minimum payment, but will possibly be able to pay their utility bills.”

One potential solution, the board statement argues, is for government to take the money it gives to the Department of Children and Family Services to help low-income residents pay rent on the private market, and instead use that money to service loans to develop a new housing facility.

“In the long term, Government will increase its equity in the project, with complete ownership,” the Trust board writes. “This development can be labelled Government Assisted Living (GAL). This will be an asset on the Government’s books or alternatively give a grant to a service club or similar entity to develop such a facility, with annual subsidies to assist with its continued maintenance.”

The Housing Trust in recent years has moved from a system of renting homes or doing rent-to-own contracts on the houses it builds to selling the homes outright. Clients work with the Trust to get traditional mortgages on the government-subsidized homes.

A number of the Trust’s new homes sat vacant for more than a year as applications piled up. That application backlog has been cleared up, according to Housing Trust Managing Director Julio Ramos, and only 14 of those homes remain vacant and available for purchase. Of the homes, four are in East End, five in West Bay and five in Bodden Town.

The statement from board members says that the Trust will only build new homes after a local bank and the Trust pre-approve a client for a mortgage, instead of the way the Trust has been operating by constructing housing developments and then selling the homes.

The board members write, “NHDT plans to construct additional affordable homes in the various districts, where there is a demand for housing, under our existing program. We will issue public notices to invite applicants and will conduct an affordable housing survey, which will further assist in determining the needs for each district.”