The Point lands, a saga of broken promises
When the Government made a bold promise 10 years ago that more than 7,000 housing units would be built on the Point Estate land in Hanover, many Hanoverians saw the sprawling property as the Promised Land.
However, a decade after the October 2005 announcement by National Housing Trust (NHT) Managing Director Earl Samuels, there is now much speculation as to what has become of the plan as there is no sign of the "urgency to tackle the housing needs of the parish", which was promised.
Samuels, while addressing an investment forum in Hanover, stated that the NHT would be adding 7,500 new solutions to the parish's housing stock, including 2,800 units at Point Estate within four years, especially against the background of the new hotel developments taking place in the parish.
While the absence of affordable housing has reached crisis proportions in Hanover, the Point Estate lands and the dreams of many prospective homeowners are still lying fallow midway 2015.
The development was cast in doubt in January 2008 when, during an interview with Western Focus, then Minister of Water and Housing Dr Horace Chang said he was not sure whether the units would still be constructed there. In subsequent years, the picture gradually began to change.
n In August 2008, Samuels, while addressing a Hanover Homecoming Investment Forum, said the construction of the Grand Palladium Hotel at Point Estate had pushed up the price of real estate in Lucea, forcing the NHT to "optimise land usage".
n Samuels subsequently stated that the NHT would reserve a section of the lands for "higher-end development" and use the revenue accrued to subsidise the other solutions, 60 per cent of which would be town houses and detached units.
n In February 2009, Chang said the Ministry of Housing was considering abandoning the Point development as the area was "easily subjected to landslides and drainage problems" due to its shale soil composition, which would easily fall apart if excavated.
At the time of Chang's 2009 pronouncement, he said the infrastructure cost of the roads, and the drains in particular, could take the cost of the house beyond what most people could afford as the NHT would have to build a number of supporting walls, resulting in infrastructure, walls, and drains costing far more than the house. He intimated that it might be better to sell the land and seek less vulnerable areas elsewhere.
"If we can find alternative lands, we may have to look at selling it to somebody who would want to do a high-end thing because if you do big lots, for example, one-acre lots for villas, you can get that kind of development out there that could tie in with tourism," Chang said at the time. "We can get good money for it and use that to put into houses in nearby areas that workers can afford because we want to provide housing in particular for tourism workers."
In the performance audit of the NHT, which was released earlier this year, the Auditor General's Department said the NHT purchased the 729.3 acres of land at Point Estate for $869.4 million and subsequently sold 23.03 acres of the property to a tourism entity for $115.15 million. The audit further noted that no housing development had commenced on the remaining portion of land. It also said that the NHT had spent $15.3 million up to December 31, 2014, on property management.
In a September 2011 assessment conducted by the NHT, it was determined that the land is characterised by steep, undulating slopes interspersed throughout, which increases the difficulty of development and that 195.55 acres (44.17 per cent) of the property is "unusable" for housing as the slopes are in excess of 15 degrees.