Housing in The Bahamas has been, for citizens and foreigners, an advantage toward easy, comfortable living. For the past few years, the topic of housing has been a challenging issue and is now an ongoing crisis. “The list of the homeless and the potential homeless is growing,” says the Nassau Guardian (Editorials, January 7 2012).
The housing epidemic in our Bahama Land is due to, according to Bahamian Contractor Association (BCA) President Leonard Sands, insufficient low-cost housing projects in the country. Therefore, contractors retaliate by finding work where it exists in building more expensive homes. Sands also said, on April 5, 2017, “that if the government can support more private sector developers to create inventory, the government could see ‘at least half a billion’ jump in construction activity” (Smith, The Nassau Guardian).
I think one of the main issues that contributes greatly to the housing issue in The Bahamas, is that Bahamian families need homes but are unable to afford it or are being expelled for failure to make payments. I also notice that there is an unusually large number of families and individuals without housing due to unemployment. This means that they fail to qualify for homes based on the lack of employment opportunities. It has become disheartening that these are the central causes of the housing issue in The Bahamas.
A few years ago, a social scientist by the name of Abraham Maslow presented the argument that an individual cannot become motivated to move forward in life and make a positive contribution to their society unless they first obtain basic self-sustaining needs such as safety and housing. This may very well be correct, and The Bahamas stands amid crisis, since more and more Bahamians are not participating in the economic stream because they are unable to financially fulfill their basic needs.
However, not all hope is lost! Lindsey Thompson, the Senior Information Officer at Bahamas Information Services, stated, “In keeping with his Government’s mission to accommodate the ownership of affordable housing for Bahamians, Prime Minister Dr. the Hon. Hubert A. Minnis introduced a landmark Bill to this effect, in the House of Assembly on Wednesday May 9, 2018.”
Dr. Minnis stated,
“This landmark legislation will significantly increase home ownership throughout The Bahamas, helping potentially hundreds of Bahamians to realize the long sought dream of a home to call their own. Along with the opportunity for work, education, and healthcare, access to affordable housing is vital for social development and human happiness and wellbeing. The proposed legislation will pass on tremendous savings to homeowners” (Bahamas Information Services).
In the future, it is hoped that these projects will shed a new beacon of hope over The Bahamas and the housing issue will tremendously improve.
An overcrowded population is another factor in the housing crisis, especially in New Providence, where adequate low-cost housing is in short supply. The Bahamas Housing Authority was established by the government in 1983 with a mandate to develop housing for low-income people (Nations Encyclopedia). However, the government has waived customs duties on building materials for less developed islands to encourage construction of new homes in remote areas. Nations Encyclopedia also stated that, “as of 2001, the government has also launched a “new birth” program to renovate dwellings in traditional communities and to create new housing in urban centers, particularly for low or middle –class residents. The government has also sponsored housing projects for senior citizens and the disabled.”
The central issues being discussed are: the unusually large number of families and individuals that are without housing due to unemployment, and those who want a home but are being expelled for non-payment due to making minimum wages salaries.
Due to an increase in the number of unemployed individuals, it is difficult for individuals to purchase a house or an acre of land. Without jobs, it is hard for Bahamians to meet the standard requirements to purchase a house or land and to pay mortgages. As a resolve, the government should invest with investors and companies on bringing business to The Bahamas so that there will be jobs available for Bahamian citizens. Without businesses, there will be no jobs, without jobs there will be no money and you need money to purchase a house or property.
There must be an increase in minimum wage! In my opinion, minimum wage should be increased from $210 to $270 per week. Those that are making $210 per week, are having a hard time ‘trying to make ends meet’ and therefore, are incapable of meeting the additional demands of a mortgage. With an increase in minimum wage along with the new initiatives, Bahamians will be suitable applicants to purchase a house or property, low-cost or possibly otherwise.
As a Bahamian citizen, I feel like housing issue is an unnecessary and ongoing crisis that needs a resolution. Bahamians should be able to feel secure that this issue will be solved in the very near future. If not resolved we may still face this problem five, ten or even twenty years from now. With the resolutions made, it is my hope that the Bahamian society and the government can come to a speedy resolution so that Bahamians can have a sense of pride that comes with owning their own land or property. It is my hope that when I am at the age to purchase my own home/property, I have the financial resources to do so. This issue may affect my generation and those to come if it is not resolve in a timely manner.
-By Erika Francis, 12th Grade, St. Georges High School
-Winner of Inaugural BAYP Essay Competition