MONDAY, MAY 28: Government’s Ireland Island housing plan is a big issue. While all parties – OBA, PLP and UBP – support better housing for people where it is needed, we have major questions and concerns about the Government’s approach to this particular project. Here are some of them:

Why is Government competing against Mr. and Mrs. Bermuda?

Building 100 new housing units when there is a major glut of empty apartments and homes across the island puts the Government in direct competition with Mr. and Mrs. Bermuda, who need rental income to help meet their mortgage payments.  To add insult to injury, the Government is using their taxpayer dollars to compete against them. If the project goes ahead, we think it should be limited to replacing the 48 existing units. Building another 52 units will only make life more challenging for Bermudians with places to rent.

Why did the Government not open this contract to Bermudians?

The Government has been trying to convince Bermuda it is turning a new leaf on good governance – to make sure there is “fair administration, fair access and fair dealings”, as the Premier said Friday. Yet this $36-million project was never put to tender and has all the markings of yet another ‘inside deal’ that Bermudians grew to detest over the last five years. The Government must answer two other questions on this deal: How was the US company chosen for this project and who chose it?

Ireland Island project does not maximize Bermudian jobs potential

As things stand, this project is sending millions of Bermuda taxpayer dollars to US dealers and outsourcing jobs that could be done by Bermudian workers. This is a missed-opportunity in the making and makes a mockery of Government claims that it is protecting Bermudian jobs. This is a project that minimizes Bermudian jobs at a time when hundreds of construction workers remain out of work.

The Government’s priority must be to create jobs. It is the lack of jobs that is really hurting Bermudian families today, and to see job opportunities sent overseas is something all Bermuda need to question.

Tenants must be consulted

Our discussions with tenants of Victoria and Albert Row have revealed a deep disappointment that the Government has not consulted with them. They have been invited to meetings and presented with, as one resident said, “take-it-or-leave-it” plans. We also know they are terribly concerned about the rent ranges for the new units, from $1,600 to $2,100. We know these rates are above – in some cases far above – what they currently pay.

For many, it may be difficult to understand why people would want to live in these old accommodations. What they don’t know is that there is a strong sense of community in Ireland Island.  In some cases the families have lived there for 30 or more years. These are not just buildings, these are their homes! Let’s give them a chance to tell us what they believe is the best option.

Government must focus on real housing needs

As Party Leader Craig Cannonier said a few weeks ago, “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. The Government once had a plan for a purpose-built facility to house the truly needy. But it was shelved for the new TCD building. It has said there are plans to renovate some old buildings as shelters, but there remains nothing in place for the truly needy. That is where the real housing need lies – with the truly needy.”