Public Works Minister Defends WEDCo Project

May 26, 2012

To say the solution would be to renovate the existing units on Albert and Victoria Row and keep the rent at the same level clearly shows that the Opposition have “not done any homework and they truly are out of touch,” Minister of Public Works Michael Weeks said yesterday [May 25] in the House of Assembly.

On May 11, Minister Weeks announced the $36 million project, saying it was expected to take 18 months to complete, and would be paid for by WEDCo with the Government providing a shortfall guarantee for this project.

The OBA has questioned the project, with Opposition Leader Craig Cannonier asking why the Government is continuing to build more housing when there are hundreds of empty apartments, and Shadow Finance Minister Bob Richards asked where is the $36 million coming from.

“If the Government has to guarantee it, then it is taking on more debt,” said Mr Richards. “This will be $36 million on top of the more than a billion dollars it already owes, and on top of the $14 million the BHC has to borrow to pay for the latest phase of the Grant Atlantic housing project.

“The public should not be fooled into thinking that Wedco or BHC borrowing is not public debt. These are government entities, and it is taxpayers who are ultimately responsible for it,” said Mr Richards.

WEDCo chairman Walter Lister said that funding for this project is through the Bank of Butterfield, with the financing via a combination of rents and sale proceeds from the remaining WEDCo owned Boaz Island Condos.

Saying he will “provide the facts” again, the Minister said yesterday in the House of Assembly that the overall cost of the total project is $36 million which is being paid for by WEDCo. ”

The Government however, has agreed to support the project by providing a shortfall guarantee,” said Minister Weeks. ”It is not anticipated that there will be a need for the Government to activate the shortfall as the projected rental revenue and sale proceeds from existing owned Boaz Island Village condominiums will cover the cost and financing for this project.

“However, in the unlikely event that there is a shortfall the West End Development has already put in place the provision of a Board resolution that funds provided through a shortfall will be paid back to the Government.”

Minster Weeks continued on to say, “My colleagues on the opposite side either chooses to ignore my previous statement or intentionally used this as a way of confusing the public to score Political points game.

“The residents of this area have been waiting far too long only now to be cast into a Political game by an opposition that is clearly out of touch with the residents and dwellings within the area.”

“Many of the WEDCo tenants have had to endure through a very long delivery process only now to be faced by an opposition that are obviously not interested in improving their quality of life. To state that their solution would be to renovate the existing units and keep the rent at the same level clearly shows that they have not done any homework and they truly are out of touch.”

The Minister said to renovate the existing 42 units at Albert and Victoria Row would require all of the sitting tenants to vacate due to the state of the structures.

“These structures were constructed in the 1870’s, they have no fire wall separation, they have termites, asbestos and any effective renovation of these two sites would cost approximately $20 million dollars to ensure they conform to at current building codes,” said Minister Weeks.

“I will do the math to assist my colleagues. 42 units divided by $20 million would equate to $476,000 per unit. In summary the opposition would believe it prudent to kick the sitting tenant out for the renovation period and, spend an additional $116 thousand dollars per unit over a new modern unit which is energy efficient, saves on potable water consumption and treats waste in an environmentally sensitive manner.”

Minister Weeks full statement follows below:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to provide Members of this Honourable House and the people of Bermuda with a further update on a project which is being delivered by the West End Development Corporation.

Mr. Speaker, despite on May 11th just 2 weeks ago outlining a very clear and factual brief of the project for this Honourable House and for the people of Bermuda just 2 weeks ago, on May 11th, the opposition have intentionally introduced via the media false information in the hope of Political gain. Or, simply they could not divide $36 million by 100 homes; in addition they did not take into account any of the infrastructure expansion or any other costs incurred in completing the project.

Mr. Speaker. The project being delivered by the West End Development Corporation is both an Infrastructure expansion and Housing development project. This project will see the expansion of infrastructure from Ireland Ireland North to Boaz Island and also the creation of a new residential community, Primarily for WEDCo tenants on the existing Victoria Row site.

Mr. Speaker the infrastructure expansion will afford both sewage collection and supply of reclaimed water from locations between Ireland Ireland North and Boaz Island for current and future developments.

Additionally, the project provides a solution to the long outstanding housing challenges within the West End without displacing existing tenants – a situation that the former government created and failed to address or simply choose not to address.

Mr. Speaker, I would now like to again provide the facts about the project so my Honourable Colleagues and those listening by way of radio will be properly informed and know the with the truth.

Mr. Speaker, the overall cost of the total project is $36,000,000.00 and is being delivered and paid for by the West End Development Corporation.

The Government however, has agreed to support the project by providing a shortfall guarantee. It is not anticipated that there will be a need for the Government to activate the shortfall as the projected rental revenue and sale proceeds from existing owned Boaz Island Village condominiums will cover the cost and financing for this project.

However, in the unlikely event that there is a shortfall the West End Development has already put in place the provision of a Board resolution that funds provided through a shortfall will be paid back to the Government.

Mr. Speaker, obviously my colleagues on the opposite side either chooses to ignore my previous statement or intentionally used this as a way of confusing the public to score Political pointsgame.

The residents of this area have been waiting far too long only now to be cast into a Political game by an opposition that is clearly out of touch with the residents and dwellings within the area.

Mr. Speaker, many of the WEDCo tenants have had to endure through a very long delivery process only now to be faced by an opposition that are obviously not interested in improving their quality of life. To state that their solution would be to renovate the existing units and keep the rent at the same level clearly shows that they have not done any homework and they truly are out of touch.

Mr. Speaker, to renovate the existing 42 units at Albert and Victoria Row would require all of the sitting tenants to vacate due to the state of the structures. These structures were constructed in the 1870’s, they have no fire wall separation, they have termites, asbestos and any effective renovation of these two sites would cost approximately $20 million dollars to ensure they conform to at current building codes.

Mr., Speaker, I will do the math to assist my colleagues. 42 units divided by $20 million would equate to $476 thousand dollars per unit. In summary the opposition would believe it prudent to kick the sitting tenant out for the renovation period and, spend an additional $116 thousand dollars per unit over a new modern unit which is energy efficient, saves on potable water consumption and treats waste in an environmentally sensitive manner.

Mr. Speaker, Last week I attended the Tenants meeting hosted by WEDCo. I personally spoke with tenants who are excited about the project and ready to move into their new homes. The meeting addressed all of the questions raised and WEDCo is aware and prepared to assist the tenants through this transition process.

In addition to providing a long term solution for the area residential housing challenges in the area, it also creates a welcomed boost for our construction industry. Throughout the 18 month delivery period it is anticipated that in excess of 100 jobs will be required within various capacities to complete the project.

Mr. Speaker, The construction method for this project is a pre-engineered concrete and foam filled panel system for both walls and roof. These panels will be delivered to Dockyard and they will be erected and completed with local labour.

This method of construction provides significant strength and energy efficiency while also being cost effective. The aesthetics of the units will be consistent with many existing 2 story dwellings throughout Bermuda and the interior will be completed with kitchen appliances.

Mr. Speaker, the project is being delivered in 2 phases. Phase 1 will see construction of 48 units on the property adjacent to the existing Victoria Row. Upon the completion of phase 1 the current sitting tenants from both Albert and Victoria Row will have the opportunity to move into the completed units.

Phase 2 will see the demolishing of both Victoria and Albert Row and then completion of the remaining units. The development consists of a mix of 1, 2 and 3 bedrooms. Rents for these units will range between $1,600 and $2,100.

These homes are being developed to provide the 60+ existing WEDCo tenants and those still on the BHC rental waiting list the opportunity to live in a new, safe, modern unit.

Mr. Speaker, the infrastructure expansion portion of the project affords the housing development and others to be linked into existing potable water supply, sewage collection and treatment as well as the supply of treated water which can be used for flushing and irrigation which will significantly reducing the overall long term potable water consumption for this area.

Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, the project will be delivered by the West End Development Corporation on time and on budget and the area residents in very short order will see the progress of their new homes.

Thank you Mr. Speaker!

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Comments (33)

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  1. Grouper says:

    Defending the undefensible…

  2. Rick Rock says:

    I think I get it now. One hand is going to borrow money from the other hand, which has borrowed money in order to lend it to the other one.

    Finance is easy isn’t it.

    I drove by those new apartments on South Shore last night. No cars parked there. No lights on. Empty. Unwanted. Ugly.

  3. Family Man says:

    Even if the houses were needed, with so much local unemployment in the construction industry, why is the PLP hiring a US company to build Bermuda houses?

    Does the PLP think Bermudians are not capable enough to build the houses with local materials?

    What happened to Paula’s ‘Buy Bermuda’ campaign?

    • Come correct says:

      A US based company isn’t building Bermuda houses, a US based company is building american pre-fabricated buildings with an skb “Bermuda lookin” roof.

      That didn’t apply to ministers, nothing does.

    • Red Appletalk says:

      Actually , I think it was Dr. Browns “Buy Bermuda” campaign. It was changed to “BYE Bermuda”.

  4. M.P.Mountbatten JP says:

    Move everybody out and make it into a world class resort with a huge marina on one side and a waterpark on the other .

    • hmm says:

      Right Mountbatten – just move them out like they moved out the residents of Tucker’s Town! SMH

  5. Yankee Boy says:

    Government needs to butt out and let normal market processes
    take place. Wage rates, housing prices, and housing inventories need
    to fall as fast as possible in order to clear the market.

    Why would a PLP Government add to the Housing Supply , thru their Quasi Government entity , WEDCO?

    Who’s the contractor or his “front” company ? Where’s the BIU when you need them, Derek Burgess and Chris Furbert fighting for workers right ? Why are you two quiet ? Because of the PHC fiasco , Cement Deal, WEDCO Dock, New houses built in Frigate Bay, St. Kitts or Hamilton Parish.

    One common link – Guess who ?

    • terry says:

      Yankee Bouy……

      Please don’t tell me Dr. Death.

  6. Itsaboutallofus says:

    At the end of the day it is a shame that the OBA and their operatives will ignore truth and put out false information and then continue to perpetrate these falsehoods.

  7. Red Appletalk says:

    Forget what the government or the oppossition is saying. The people of Bermuda are asking why? We are asking is this the only solution to house people considering the overstock of apartments on the market? The people are asking is this really a good idea right now? The people of Bermuda are asking does it make sense to spend money in this way right now? The people of Bermuda are wondering that although 42 must be torn down, do we really need to build them ALL again. Maybe the answer is yes, I don’t know the answer but this is what the people of Bermuda are asking.

    • bermudian says:

      Just relocate them to grand Atlantic while 42 are being rebuilt/renovated.

      • Come correct says:

        That’s what I say but at the same time I’d be pretty pissed off about being forced to move all my stuff twice.

    • Soooo says:

      Ok so the 42 need to be renovated (or torn down) FINE… But why build 102? why not just replace the 42 (at half the cost)

  8. LaVerne Furbert says:

    Just for the record, every major housing development under the former government were built with prefabricated materials:

    1. Rockaway, Southampton
    2. Top Square, St. George’s
    3. Cedar Park, Devonshire
    4. Mary Victoria Road, Devonshire
    5. Fenton’s Drive/Curving Avenue, Pembroke

    Those are the ones that immediately come to mind. I didn’t see anyone complaining back then, so why all the complaints now?

    • Family Man says:

      Maybe because for the first time in many Bermudian’s lives they are UNEMPLOYED.

      Buying block from the Bermudian block plants, keeps Bermudians employed.
      Trucking that block and cement, keeps Bermudians employed
      Building houses in the traditional Bermudian manner, one block at a time keeps Bermudians employed.
      Building the roof and windows keeps Bermudian employed.

      Do you get it now LaVerne?

      Even your premier said we should support local business. Or did she just mean the rest of us?

      • #Gotta be kiddn me... says:

        It also makes the houses 10 times more expensive. Remember they are called affordable house for a reason… Einstien! Smh

        • Family Man says:

          How do we know. Was the contract ever put out to bid or was it just handed to their favourite supplier.

          If you don’t seek local prices, you’ll never know whether they are more expensive or not.

          And thanks, I’d much rather be Einstein than Patrick

        • Come correct says:

          800g is affordable? You can buy a cottage with a small bit of property closer to town for that, now that the market is saturated. I also know someone who bought one of the rockaway condos for 400g, half that, and its now worth less than what he paid due to the market. Keep building houses, soon I’ll be able to buy one for cheap.

    • Liars! says:

      well you have just shown us at “just to name a few” how many great projects that the UBP/OBA did back then for the people of this island

    • Wow says:

      The national embarrasment!

    • Come correct says:

      So how much of Bermudas history was destroyed building all of those?

  9. LaVerne Furbert says:

    And, please don’t go there that the OBA is not the UBP. Convince me and the rest of Bermuda that that is not so.

    • Shaking the Head says:

      As you have listed all those low cost housing developments built under the UBP for the less well off Bermudians, and you think the UBP is the OBA, then using your logic the OBA already have a track record of assisting less well off Bermudians. Maybe the OBA will be pleased for that endorsement to their social agenda. The occupants of these units would be those who haven’t been able to accumulate nultiple housing units, unlike many so called less well off or Union employees, is that correct LaVerne?

      • C.B.A says:

        Woah, let’s not start thinking logically…that may actually lead to an OBA win!

    • Soooooo says:

      With that logic, Wayne Furbert is still a member of the UBP….

  10. Triangle Drifter says:

    Weeks, you are kidding right???? The market is flooded with housing, thanks to the exodus of IB people caused by the PLP. A good thing according to some in the PLP. PLP supporting home owners, or rather mortgage payers, are sitting with empty accomodations & weeks wants to build more uneeded housing at taxpayer expense.

    When will the insanity end?

  11. Cox must Go says:

    Cox must go

    Cox must go

    Cox must go

    Cox must go

    the rental income on these will not meet the interest payments to Butterfield Bank, so we are $36,000,000 more in debt as Goverment will have to be ultimate Guarantor, nonetheless, 100 units means at lest 300 low income votes for the PLP…….are these the same pre fabricated units used in Project Housing in the US and those low income slums in the Caribbean?

    Cox must go

  12. Wow says:

    Sheer incompetence ,why everyone is leaving its now a joke ! But hey it’s all good we can still get a free green t shirt

  13. Don't care what anyone says:

    Laverne: Who cares whether OBA is PLP or not? If anything, PLP is not the PLP. They promised a new Bermuda and they lied – they failed. PLP must be voted out.
    All but the particularly stupid and ignorant know this. Unfortunately, the particularly stupid and ignorant still have a vote.

    However, your PLP will be voted out by right thinking people who want an honest Government – not the ones we have now.

  14. PLP: Please Leave Parliament says:

    To build even more new places, with money we don’t have, when there are so many empty houses and apartments in Bermuda is pure lunacy!

    PLP you have achieved your goal of getting expats to leave. Kindly use our existing empty places before building more residences that we don’t need.

    Oh yes, and get out of Parliament please – just call the election already.

  15. Hmmmmmm says:

    Week by name Weak by nature. Wevare not fooled by your weak reasoning. This WILL end up costing the taxpayer. This is a FACT.

  16. Verbal Kint says:

    Who’s going to remove the asbestos and what will be done with it?