The makings of this article started about six weeks ago, when Bermuda Real was contacted by a number of residents, desperate to find an affordable place to live. One woman said the only place she could find after weeks of searching, was a one-bedroom unit for $2,900 a month. As a single parent, she said there was no way she could afford that. She is currently renting a room for a few months while she continues to try to find a home, while sharing a room with her and her young daughter. Meanwhile, a landlord who has been renting for several years said he knows of tenants who are listed as number forty on the list of residents looking to view one unit. When we checked with local realtors, who all spoke on the condition of anonymity, the response on the current situation was worse than anticipated…
Local realtors say if you are one of many residents desperately seeking affordable housing, you may stand a better chance of finding a needle in a haystack.
In fact, one realtor told Bermuda Real, that in all her 40 years as a local real estate agent, she has never seen Bermuda s affordable housing stock so bad.
Asked for her take on the current situation, she said Bermuda was experiencing a massive crisis.
“I have a waiting list for one unit with 18 people on that list in one month,” she said.
On the real estate market in general, she said a lot of Bermudians are selling their homes for a number of reasons.
“Some are leaving the island, while others are down-sizing because they are now empty nesters, and some homeowners are finding it too expensive to run a home.
“A lot of seniors who are homeowners are finding that they can‘t keep up,” she added.
Things took a turn for the worse with the global pandemic, in her view.
“A number of families found it difficult during lockdown and decided to rent a smaller apartment as well as their family homes to have space from their spouses,” she said.
“Many of these families sadly decided to separate, meaning two rental properties are needed – not one.
“Then there was the advent of the digital nomads, and their rentals range from $3,000 to $12,000 per month,”
And then, on top of that, she said: “The cost of living is making our seniors who are lucky enough to have a rental property realize that owning and running the property is getting too expensive.
“The sale market is at an all–time high, seniors are selling, and the new owners want tenants to move so new owners can move in, therefore those rental properties are not for rent any longer.”
Couple all of that with the fact that there are expats on the island, who have been here for more than ten years now, who can now purchase a home with a certificate.
In other words, she said sales are good, but that also translates into less rental properties on the market.
Right now, she said: “There are people who can pay $12,000 a month for a three to four–bedroom house and what was $12,000 is now $12,500 to $14,000.
“What was $65,000 a month is now $8,5000 a month and people are paying it!
“But where does this leave the average person?
“There are young families that work on minimum wage that must share one home with other families as there are no apartments available.
“Grown children living at home because truly they cannot find an affordable accommodation,” she said.
“Every agent will have nightmare stories of trying to find a one–bedroom unit under $2,500 a month.
“It doesn‘t matter about location or size.
“The hotels and restaurants should be made to have staff accommodation for their workers,” she added.
“These poor people live in some very rough places, with too many people residing in one space.
“Sonesta Beach, Elbow Beach, Castle Harbour hotels all provided staff accommodation, why not now?
“And there are also so many derelict homes on the island, how can we make them livable?”
Her comments were echoed by another agent, who said “Bermuda has a serious rental housing crisis.
“Ask every realtor and you will get the same answer. There’s no inventory available to show.”
In her view, the situaon started in 2017 with the America’s Cup.
“There was insufficient accommodation to house the teams and the support staff and the visitors who came for it,” she said.
“Many were encouraged to provide rentals for them.
“After their departure these were never returned to the long-term housing stock, as landlords made more from vacation rentals.
“For landlords who had issues prior to this with non-performing tenants, this was an answer to the often complicated issues of removing those tenants,” she added.
“For the landlords who did return to longer term rentals, the homes were only given by word of mouth to those fortunate enough to be in the loop as proven paying tenants.
“For the many desperate families seeking sustainable rents the decision of last resort was to emigrate to the UK.”
On that note, she said: “Life in Bermuda is not sustainable for the regular working population.
“Studios, one–bedrooms, two–bedrooms and family homes have become economically impossible to obtain.
“This lack of available housing seems to be swept under the carpet though it is a constant refrain amongst those who are in search of a roof over their heads.”
She also questioned why the Bermudiana development was not designated for Bermuda families rather than a hotel?
“Should the wellbeing of the population have trumped other options?
“Many feel that it should have been considered as potential rental by the Bermuda Housing Corporation or another property management that could manage it well.
“Any rental that is advertised the applicants are numerous and deserving.
“In addition, those with housing allowances are at an advantage and do not have that additional item to consider in their budget.
“The lack of hope that not having a home permeates every feeling within a person and for hope to die, leads often to bad decisions,” she said.
“What hope is left when it appears that even the Government is unable to help?”
And then there is the downside of renting an apartment or home in Bermuda from the landlord s oint of view.
We spoke with several landlords, but what this landlord had to say raised even more questions.
“I have been a landowner and renter for almost 20 years,” he said.
“Over that time, I have seen a steady decline in tenants and their responsibilities, with late payments and failure to maintain the condition of the property.
“I had a tenant once, who presently owes me $27,000 in rent arrears and damages who was ordered by the courts to pay $300 a month on the bill.
“That tenant was allowed to jump up owing money and emigrate to the UK leaving me to hold the bag!
“I wonder what the total amount of the courts have listed in rent arrears, how many are in arrears and how many who owe that money have left the island, even if they were under a court order to pay?”
Other landlords said they experienced the same thing when trying to recoup rent money in arrears from tenants who they have already taken to court.
When they returned they were told they would have to pay out more money to summon that same tenant back to court to uphold the court order they ignored in the first instance.
We will have more in subsequent reports in addition to a closer look at Amendments to the Bermuda Immigration and Protection Act 1956, which allows for long-term residents to become Permanent Resident’s Certificate holders in Bermuda, that went into effect in December 2021.
The Department of Immigration started accepting applications in January 2022.
Bermuda Real will take a closer look as well, at the numbers since we saw the advent of digital nomads residing in Bermuda in 2021, during the lockdown that resulted from the global pandemic.
As of May 2021, more than 800 applications were submitted for one-year residency in Bermuda, with more than 700 of them approved, in addition to the 400 digital nomads already residing here at that time.
At that point, the Minister of the Economy and Labour, Jason Hayward, said the work-from-Bermuda plan drew investors looking to base companies here – all with staff in need of somewhere to live.
He noted that the “digital nomad” scheme and the economic investment certificate (EIC) programme, were all part of the Ministry’s plan to increase the island’s resident population.
The EIC, allowed foreigners to reside in Bermuda for five years if they invest a minimum of $2.5 million into the island.
EIC holders were then apply for a residential certificate after five years.