CIREBA president: Lack of affordable homes is an ongoing concern

The cost of raw materials is making it more difficult than ever to build affordable housing in Cayman. - Photo: Taneos Ramsay

The limited number of affordable homes for sale in the Cayman Islands has been a longstanding concern in the community, according to Cayman Islands Real Estate Brokers Association president Brian Wight.

Though there are currently 400 properties listed in the CIREBA system for between $100,000 and $450,000, Wight said the majority are at the upper end of that bracket. Many of them are listed as ‘pending’, meaning they are under contract to be sold.

He added that an increasing number of properties in this price range were being bought as investments for rental income rather than as homes for people to live in. Wight said this was creating further pressure for home buyers.

Brian Wight

He said government concessions had helped make entry-level properties more affordable and suggested more action may now be necessary.

“The stamp duty waiver for first-time Caymanian home buyers has helped many Caymanians make their first step into property ownership. This is only a good thing for the community and future,” Wight said.

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“However, given that home ownership is an important part of future social stability of the islands, more focus should be placed on assisting residents in the purchase of property in this segment.”

He said the increasing cost of land, labour and materials made it more difficult to develop properties for the affordable homes market.

He added that incentives could be introduced to make such projects easier for developers.

“One consideration would be to reduce the availability of concessions to developers on properties developed and sold in the higher priced segment of the market to offset concessions offered to developers who create projects offering residential homes priced, for example, below CI$450,000 and being sold to local residents.”

Wight also suggests tweaking the legislation which allows people to gain lifetime residency in the Cayman Islands by meeting a number of conditions including making an investment of more than $1 million in property. He said limiting this investment to a single property would help ensure those applicants were not competing in the affordable homes price bracket.

Another potential government action would be to allow affordable homes developments on smaller pieces of land, he added.

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  1. One of the problems is that planning permission cannot be given for affordable homes in low density residential areas. A friend bought a nice sized piece of land with the intention to build two small 1-bed apartments downstairs (floorplan 600sq ft each) and a modest 2 bed apartment on the second floor. But it was not allowed because there is a max of 2 units allowed per plot in low density residential areas. The same-sized plot next door has a massive two storey mansion taking up almost all of the plot that has to be 4000 sq ft ground plan, plus upstairs. That’s why there is no affordable housing. Planning permission doesn’t allow them to be built.