High rental prices, high mortgage payment, shortage of houses and apartments and increase in shanty towns.
According to the Maslow, there are five levels of basic human needs namely, physical survival needs, physical safety needs, love and belonging needs, self-esteem needs and self -fulfilled needs. Included in one of these five levels of human needs is the need for shelter and so housing is one of the basic needs for humans.
Unfortunately, there is an inadequate availability of houses and apartments in the country. Furthermore, the rental prices of apartments are very high and the mortgage payments are also high due to the increase in interest rate. These high prices will cause more persons to build illegal shacks and develop shanty towns. Of course, I don’t believe that is one of the main reasons why people are building illegal shacks as this has been going on long before inflation and the housing shortage.
On Tuesday, March 28th, 2023, Hon Jamel Robinson, the Minister of Physical Planning, and Infrastructure Development was a guest on Financially Speaking and he stated that the Government passed a housing policy framework that has three programs to address the housing situation.
Why a housing crisis exists?
The country continues to grow at a fast pace and this growth requires workers. The employees in turn will need a place to stay but there are hardly any places available and those that are available, they are very expensive.
Some people have also used their homes or apartments for short term rentals and therefore there is inadequate housing available for long term rental. Due to the shortage of long term rentals, the landlords know there is a demand and so some of them are charging exorbitant prices for rent.
The mortgage rate is very high, and the cost of construction materials is very high and so it is a challenge for individuals to build homes and apartments. They just cannot afford to build and so there is a housing crisis.
- The first program is to provide up to 100% duty waiver concessions on building materials for any legal resident that will build 5 units or more apartments for long term rental.
- Up to $50,000 of construction work on homes that are not in livable conditions. These are homes that were impacted by Hurricanes and have yet to be fixed.
- The third program is to encourage people to return to older communities. This would involve demolishing old homes at a cost by Government and the Government will build homes for the most vulnerable.
My thoughts and recommended solutions
First, I do like the fact that the Government is trying to address the housing crisis, however, I do not agree with the Government providing 100% duty waiver concessions for all residents. I think this should be restricted to Turks and Caicos Islanders and in so doing this will provide an opportunity for Turks and Caicos Islanders to participate in the real estate market. The fact that there is a housing shortage and there is a need for more long term apartments, people will rent from you. This is the ideal opportunity to create more entrepreneurs for locals. By allowing all persons to get the 100% duty concessions, we are making the wealth gap between the haves and the have nots even worst.
I also believe the Government should use the crown land and build condo style units with multiple floors. In this way, there will be more availability for Turks and Caicos Islanders to own something. The Government can partner with local contractors to build these units and then allow Turks and Caicos Islanders to buy these units and they in turn can either live in them or rent the units to others. I mentioned this on the show, but the Minister stated that the Government is not interested at this time in this type of proposal. However, I personally think the Government should consider this as an option. Rather than giving individuals land, the Government should develop the land with condo type homes. Land is a scarce resource, and we need to utilize as much land as possible and one way to do so is to build multi-storey units and everyone can have access to not only to a house or apartment but something that is affordable.
I also think that price controls should be in place for long term apartment rentals. I believe the rates for some of the apartments are inflated and therefore should not be at such high prices.
Finally, I must applaud the Government on the demolition of some of the shanty towns in the Bight and Five Cays. I hope this sends a strong message to the owners of illegal shacks.
If you are in a position to construct apartments for long term rentals, I encourage you to do so. This is a great opportunity to not only meet the demands of the housing situation but also to help you to generate some wealth. As I mentioned on the Financially Speaking show, if you decide to build, utilize as much of the land space even if it means building three or four storeys.
There is a demand for housing and when you collect your rental income, pay more than your required mortgage payment so that in the event the demand for housing decreases, you will not be in a bad financial condition.