by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Since news broke of the US$227 million housing development expected to start in June 2023, citizens and residents have had questions, especially about the company managing the development.
The Trinidadian company, East Coast Housing Development Limited, will build 2,400 homes over the next four years and partner with China-based Creteform Limited to build affordable smart homes.
Members of the press seeking more information about the development and the company involved in delivering the homes were told during the May 18 Prime Minister’s Press Conference of various safeguards within the contract with the developer to protect all parties involved.
The agreement is between the National Housing Corporation (NHC) and East Coast Housing Development Limited, prepared and vetted by the Attorney General’s office.
“There is strong protection in the agreement in terms of quality of homes, in terms of delivery of home, in terms of the use of local contractors, all of that is contained in the contract. I feel certain that we have sufficient protections that will protect NHC, will protect the government, and will protect the homeowner built-in into the agreement. With any contract, there is always potential doubt as to whether the contractor can perform. Just because the contractor has built 10,000 homes of five homes in St. Kitts and they are building your home does not necessarily mean that they’re going to build it in the proper way. That is why you are supposed to have a construction contract. And in that construction contract, you’re supposed to have a project manager and the project manager at the various phases of the building of that home is supposed to report to the homeowner whether the construction is being built according to plans that are agreed by the Development, Control and Planning Board. All those provisions are in place, and they are even strengthened more because it’s a 2,400-home project. So I can assure the people of St. Kitts and Nevis that we thoroughly vetted the contract and ensure that there’s sufficient protection for homeowners, NHC and the government,” – Attorney General Hon. Garth Wilkin.
As it relates to the financing of the home, the government assured that East Coast Housing Development Limited was providing the financing of the homes, and the AG reiterated that the people of St. Kitts and Nevis are the ones purchasing the homes from the developer through NHC.
Questions were raised by Azard Gumbs, one of the hosts of Island Tea, on how the company would recoup their funds.
The Attorney General called into the program to provide further details.
“Individuals are purchasing the homes, so this company is bringing their financing from Trinidad, and they are going to then let’s just take it as a trade of the money. The money comes from Trinidad, the money is then going to be paid in materials and to local contractors to build the homes, and then individuals are going to go to Credit Unions and other financial institutions, National Bank, FINCO, Corporate Credit Union, First Federal Credit Union, Police Credit Union, etc. and they are going to get mortgage loans, and the banks then will issue those mortgage loans to pay for the homes. And NHC has a mortgage program as well, so some of the people will get mortgage loans through NHC to purchase the homes.”
Additionally, two model homes will be built to receive the approval of all stakeholders involved before proceeding with the first tranche of homes.
“There’s even greater protection… built into the contract is that two model homes will be built. If the government and/or NHC are not satisfied with the model homes and, by extension, the contractors that will be part of the construction of these model homes because of the new technology and the potential homeowners – all the stakeholders if they’re not satisfied with the model homes, the contract comes to an end. And that is the primary protection that the people in this country have. And that was the fundamental aspect that we wanted to include to make us feel even more comfortable moving forward with this agreement,” – AG Wilkin during the Prime Minister’s May 18 press conference.
What about the home’s resilience? Gumbs asked the Attorney General about assurances of the home’s quality.
“When a home is constructed in this type of construction, it’s not a block, and then you have to wait 28 days for the concrete to cure and all of this… this is a special type of construction. All of those tests will be done because the Government [NHC] is not going to allow homes to be built when the promise was that these homes would withstand hurricanes, withstand earthquakes, be good homes and then not do the proper testing- that is all built into the contract.”
On May 18, NHC also hosted what they concluded was a successful Housing Fair where the staff of the housing corporation were available to sensitise the public and to answer questions about the housing development.
The success of this second housing revolution is left to be seen.