It is possible to build affordable homes in Grand Cayman without sacrificing quality of life, according to the developer behind the Orchard Ecovillage in Savannah.
Tim Langfitt, spokesman for the project, said the vision is for affordable housing in a community designed to achieve all 17 of the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Those include providing affordable access to renewable energy, maintaining a high percentage of green space, and a stormwater management plan that mitigates the threat from flooding.
“We are very passionate about Orchard being much more than a well-built, energy-efficient set of buildings. We have ensured that the culture of sustainability is ingrained in everything we do,” he said. “In addition to every home having rooftop solar panels, we have plans for a greenhouse and farmers market to support food security on the island.”
While there are multiple projects that feature sustainable energy and design elements, he said most fall down on price.
“It is very difficult to meet all 17 (sustainable development goals) because incorporating renewable energy and all the other elements while remaining affordable is a major challenge.”
Orchard Ecovillage’s price range of $289,000 for a one-bedroom unit up to $500,000 for a three-bedroom home, fits the definition of affordable set by the UN. A worker on an average annual salary of $40,000 could qualify for a mortgage on the one-bedroom home, provided they have saved 10% for a deposit and closing costs.
Langfitt said the sustainability elements of the project had resonated with buyers. Phase one was sold out in 10 weeks.
Orchard Ecovillage includes a co-working area, is promoting a car-pooling scheme and is organising a daily shuttle to George Town to lessen the need for residents to own cars.
He said the village is built around a lake and would feature amenities including kayaking, yoga, nature trails and community workshops. Eventually, it will incorporate a daycare centre and a school. The facilities within the village are likely to be operated by commercial tenants offering services available to the wider community to avoid high strata fees and integrate the development within the neighbourhood.
Langfitt said it was challenging in Cayman to keep costs low.
“Building in this price range leaves little room for manoeuvre and the developer has to be willing to accept modest profits,” he said. “Look at the cost of lumber, the cost of cement, they have gone through the roof and that can destroy your profit margin.”
Even getting hold of materials can be a challenge when there is a shortage – something many contractors have discovered in the wake of a post-lockdown global building boom.
“An affordable housing developer has to compete on the open market with every luxury project and the highest bid gets the materials,” he said.
Phase one of the project is in mid-construction right now. All 24 apartments and 24 two- and three-bedroom townhouses have been pre-sold, mainly to first-time buyers, retirees and young families, Langfitt said. Eventually, there will be approximately 150 homes at the site, close to Beach Bay.
It is hoped that Orchard Ecovillage will help establish the principle that proximity to George Town is not a necessity for quality of life in Grand Cayman.
A sustainable design and on-site amenities will reduce the need for car journeys, Langfitt said. Dealing with that element will mean that at least the eastern districts – where land is generally cheaper – can be a viable option for affordable-homes developers.