PRESS STATEMENT BY DR. KENDAL MAJOR,
Candidate for the Garden Hills Constituency, PLP
As the Progressive Liberal Party candidate for Garden Hills, I have canvassed the constituency for over a year now. I have visited the majority of homes in the constituency and I have spoken to thousands of Bahamians. Today, many of these residents are irate at the government’s announcement to give squatters first preference to land in a new subdivision, which will be developed at Mackey yard, at a cost of $3.40 per square foot (approximately $13,600).
Mackey yard is located in the southwestern area of Garden Hills Constituency, and there is a large concentration of apartment complexes in the surrounding area. Many of the residents have been paying rent for most of their adult lives, and they aspire to own a home. They have expressed serious discontentment with the idea of such accommodations being made for those individuals who were squatting in the area and not abiding by the law for many years.
Bahamians are crying out for housing and have been frustrated by the lack of transparency in the process. It appears that over 10,000 Bahamians have applied and are qualified for housing. Many are told, “We’ll get back to you”, only to be disappointed time and time again. Whether it is government housing or Crown Land, thousands of Bahamians have applied and are still holding out hope that their time will come to own a piece of the rock in the land of their birth.
Based on the demands it appears to be a desperate need for housing for Garden Hills Constituency especially the surrounding area of Fire Trail Road. As a result private housing subdivisions have been developed such as Hunts Close, Ross Davis Estates, Ophelia Storr Estates, Avocado Gardens, Assembly Gardens and others. If Mackey yard is to be properly developed as the newest subdivision in the area, lots should be made available to all who qualify, rather than, as housing Minister Kenneth Russell put it, “preference” being given to the squatters. Residents in the area who are renting and seek to move into homes of their own contend that if land in the area is to be sold at a ridiculously low rate, it should be offered to those who have already applied and have been waiting for years to acquire land in New Providence.
This is a warning to the Government that the move they are preparing to take in Mackey yard will not rest well with the residents of Garden Hills Constituency and Bahamians in general, especially those in the southwestern area that have had to deal with the scourge of shanty towns, which sit right next to orderly subdivisions and apartment zones.
The price on Government housing is approximately fifty per cent (50%) subsidized by the Government when they are sold to qualified Bahamians under normal circumstances. With these LOW prices we are essentially GIVING LAND AWAY IN MACKEY YARD.
The Government proposes to sell the land at below market prices, which will have the effect of reducing property values in the neighborhoods where land was sold at market value. Across the street from Mackey yard, land values are $75,000. Yet in Mackey yard, the government proposes to sell land for as low as $13,600.
Property owners in the area of Mackey Yard on Fire Trail Road are also concerned that the FNM government is negotiating with the former squatters of Mackey Yard for the sale of lots to the exclusion of ordinary Bahamians.
The Government says that land will be sold to “Bahamians” or newly regularized Bahamians who were Mackey Yard squatters; or permanent residents who were Mackey Yard squatters. This rewards illegal activity when legitimate Bahamians who are qualified are deprived. Something is wrong with this picture. It is wrong to sell the land at below market to an exclusive group of people, some of whom have questionable status. The situation is made further suspicious because of the season of the pending general elections.
The Government must be called to give an account. The information coming from Ministry of Housing is conflicting. What is really going on? We remind the FNM government of their promise in their Manifesto of 2007 that speaks to transparency, accountability and trust. Here are some of the questions that Bahamian residents are asking:
*Who are the persons eligible to purchase any lots?
*Is the process open to those Bahamians who have applied and are qualified to purchase houses in The Bahamas?
*How was the land in Mackey Yard acquired by the government, when was it acquired and at what cost?
*What is the cost of the development infrastructure being put in place and when will these contracts go out to bid?
*What are the names of the persons on the “list” that the Minister has stated will be given the exclusive right to purchase land?
*How many lots will make up the development and what are the sale prices?
I was on the scene during the aftermath of the Mackey yard fire on December 26, 2010. I spoke with Mackey yard residents and those in the vicinity. The Constituency of Garden Hills and its residents have major issues with the Shanty towns in their area.
During my visits I have observed poor sanitation; close proximity of shacks; stolen electricity; poorly installed generators; inadequate water supply; poor ventilation; stagnant water; and filth. The water table could be contaminated by washed water, waste and feces over the years, which could breed many diseases, dengue fever, parasites, worms and other serious heath implications. These Shanty towns are ripe for further fires, rampant diseases, and general poor quality of life. Squatters are presently living on the said land illegally and therefore breaking the law of our country.
I call on the government of The Bahamas, on behalf of the thousands of residents in the Garden Hills Constituency who have expressed their concerns to me, to lead from a perspective of accountability, transparency and the rule of law.