One Bermuda Alliance leader Craig Cannonier *File photo
One Bermuda Alliance leader Craig Cannonier *File photo

THURSDAY, MAY 17: Government’s plan to build 45 new rental housing units in Dockyard will compete with ‘Mr and Mrs Bermuda’.

This is according to One Bermuda Alliance leader Craig Cannonier and Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards.

The pair held a press conference today to respond to Works Minister Michael Weeks' announcement of the proposed project.

Mr Weeks said the project will be delivered by the West End Development Corporation (WEDCO) and take 18 months to complete.

It is expected to cost $36 million and will involve the expansion of infrastructure from Ireland Island North to Boaz Island and the creation of a new residential community for WEDCO tenants on the existing Victoria Row site.

But Mr Cannonier disagreed with the plan and said: “Why is this government continuing to build more housing when we know from conversations across the island that there are hundreds of homeowners with empty apartments.

“With this project, the government is moving in the direct competition with Mr and Mrs Bermuda, who need the rental income from their apartments to meet their mortgage payments.”

Mr Cannonier said competing with homeowners would weaken the economy further.

His second concern is with the families who already live along Victoria and Albert Row, as they are concerned that they won’t be able to afford the rent for the new units.

“Some residents also maintain that the existing units are structurally sound and perfect for renovation.

“We would like the Minister to explain why he decided to demolish this historic housing instead of renovating them.”

The Opposition Leader also questioned whether the rental units would be truly affordable.

“Bermuda already has enough so-called affordable housing.

“What we don’t have enough of is housing for people who can’t afford affordable housing.”

Speaking on the financial side of the project, Mr Richards questioned where the money would be coming from and why Government hasn’t explained it.

“We know Government doesn’t have it and we know WEDCO doesn’t have it," he said.

“So, where is it coming from?

“And what’s the deal?

“Someone is going to need to be paid for this scheme to work so it’s important to know what commitments Bermuda has agreed to put in place."

Mr Richards said at $36 million, it would cost $800,000 per unit with an average monthly rent of $1,850 per unit, without interest or maintenance.

He said it would be “an incredibly high cost” to entry-level income residents.

Mr Richards also suggested placing the families in vacant rental units around the island and providing subsidies where necessary.