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AG defends housing initiative; says it is not discriminatory

Attorney General Carl Bethel yesterday defended the government’s decision to develop an upscale subdivision for young professionals, insisting that it is the right thing to do given The Bahamas’ changing demographics.

“This is a targeted initiative designed to empower young Bahamians,” he said in the Senate.

“What could possibly be objectionable about that?

“But all we have heard from members opposite in the other place is nitpicking, criticism. I heard the most outrageous things.”

Bethel added, “It is a paradigm shift that recognizes the demographic changes where more than 50 percent of the Bahamian population is under the age of 50. It reflects the fact that in the country the average age is becoming younger and younger. 

“… Successive governments have responded in their times to the demographic changes and democratic changes, which affected the country. It falls upon every government to be able to see what the changes are and to respond effectively and in a meaningful way … to those.”

The resolution allows for the development of a residential community in western New Providence geared toward young professionals, and the transfer of said land from the treasurer to the government for the sum of $10.

The community will be comprised of 83 acres of land, located north of John F. Kennedy Drive, between Prospect Ridge and the Ministry of Public Works, and will feature a clubhouse, pool, parks, and a preschool. 

There will be roughly 250 lots that will be sold for $40,000 for single-family lots and $50,000 for multifamily lots.

People between the ages of 18 and 45 will be able to apply to purchase lots in the subdivision. 

While the opposition supported the resolution, Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Senator Dr. Michael Darville was critical of the details of the plan.

He said there are still many unanswered questions about the development, and questioned whether an environmental impact assessment (EIA) and geotechnical studies had been completed. 

Bethel said the EIA has not been done yet and will be made public once completed.

“Without an environmental impact study, how do you know if these ecosystems would be affected?” Darville said.

“Therefore, it is safe to assume that without the necessary geotechnical studies, many lot owners can run the risk of purchasing a piece of land that has higher than normal foundation construction costs.”

During debate on the resolution in the House of Assembly on Monday, PLP Deputy Leader Chester Cooper called the development nothing more than electioneering.

Cooper called it an effort to appeal to the largest voting bloc in the country, without actually doing something broadly impactful for the largest voting bloc in the country.

He also said the plan is discriminatory against people who are too old to buy into the community.

However, Bethel said yesterday that is not the case and argued that the government is seeking to empower younger Bahamians.

“Who is it discriminating against?” he said.

“It is a targeted initiative to deal with the emerging demographic, just as every single housing development going back to the UBP was targeted to address the needs of emerging demographics.

“There is no discrimination.” 

Bethel said the government has already identified additional plots of land where similar initiatives are planned.

“Just to the west of Stapledon Gardens is a 29-acre plot of land,” he said.

“And there’s another plot, I haven’t seen the dimensions of it, that is also available immediately for development.” 

The resolution was passed in the Senate.

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Rachel Scott

Rachel joined The Nassau Guardian in January 2019. Rachel covers national issues. Education: University of Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish

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