Housing Ministry seeks to clarify Mackey Yard policy
The Ingraham administration’s policy allowing squatters to purchase land at Mackey Yard is no different from that of the Pindling and Christie administrations, claimed the Ministry of Housing in a statement yesterday.
The ministry sought to clarify the government’s policy on allowing Bahamian squatters to buy government land at the site of the former shantytown at $3.40 per square foot. The policy has upset many who feel that the government is giving land away to people who have only recently become Bahamians. Haitians, or those of Haitian descent, were the primary residents of Mackey Yard. A fire several months ago at the site destroyed many shacks.
Concerns about the government’s policy recently expressed by Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) deputy leader Philip ‘Brave’ Davis, were labeled “contradictory” by the ministry.
“It was the PLP government which began the regularization of squatters, on housing land, as far back as the Nassau Village Sub-division in the 1980s. Additionally, it was the same government under the leadership of former Minister of Housing Neville Wisdom, which established a price of $17,000 per lot. We decided to continue with that price, but to extrapolate a square foot price of $3.40 (per square foot), which establishes equity between lots of varying sizes,” the ministry said.
As it regards charging squatters a much lower rate to purchase land than non-squatters, the ministry said that was not happening.
“The $3.40 (per square foot) rate is generally more costly than the land price attached to each homeowner in government sub-divisions. In reality, the average cost of the land and infrastructure in our sub-divisions for each homeowner for a 50 x 100ft lot, where there is no sewer system, is only around $5,000,” said the ministry.
“While we do not condone squatting, there are many middle income Bahamians, including senior citizens, civil servants, police officers, reverends, and straw vendors, squatting on (Ministry of Housing) land in houses which are in most instances larger than government homes.
“Should all of these persons’ houses and buildings be demolished and they and their children placed on the streets? Or should the government find a way to afford those persons the opportunity to purchase the land they are living on, some for generations?
“If the latter is the case, shouldn’t the same purchase policy be applied to those poor Bahamians living in squalor – provided they are able to upgrade their houses, or construct new houses, in keeping with the Building Code? The Ministry of Housing is simply activating an existing government policy in seeking to put in place a humane, permanent solution to the squatter problem on (government) land.”