Legislators approve $1.6 million for housing repairs

The Legislative Assembly building in downtown George Town.

The government has approved more than $1.6 million in additional funding for its Housing Repairs Assistance Programme.

Under the programme, repairs are made to homes of eligible elderly or disabled Caymanians, as well as those of families with young children that are in need of financial assistance, as determined by the Needs Assessment Unit and the Housing Repairs Assistance Committee.

Premier Alden McLaughlin, in response to a question raised by George Town Central legislator Kenneth Bryan, told the Finance Committee in the Legislative Assembly on Friday that there were 22 “priority” projects outstanding this year because of insufficient funding.

He said, so far this year, seven repair projects had been completed.

After some discussion with the chairman of the Housing Repairs Assistance Committee, Andre Ebanks, who is deputy chief officer in the Ministry of Community Affairs, the Finance Committee agreed to increase an initial request for $1.2 million to $1,620,000. The additional money will be spent on another 14 homes that are also urgently in need of repairs.

The premier said that repairs of these homes needed to be done as a priority because if funding for repairs is approved in a “piecemeal manner”, homes that need repairs will deteriorate further and it will be more expensive to carry out the repairs later.

He said the existing criteria limits the amount of money budgeted for each individual project to $25,000, unless a higher amount is approved by the minister of community affairs, a role the premier also holds. “The vast majority of these projects are well in excess of $25,000,” he said. “In fact, they are generally between $40,000 and $70,000,” adding, “That’s why the money has disappeared so quickly.”

He delivered a breakdown on the number of repair projects that had been carried out in each district since the inception of the programme – seven in West Bay, 12 in George Town, seven in Bodden Town, six in North Side and four in East End. A separate programme exists for Cayman Brac.

The Finance Committee approved the supplemental appropriation of $1,620,000 for the Housing Repairs Assistance Programme.

Finance Minister Roy McTaggart told legislators that approving supplementary spending would not have a major impact on government finances, as projections up to the end of this financial year, 31 Dec. 2019, show there will be an operating surplus of $66 million for central government, with a cash balance of $362 million.