At any given time, the Bermuda Housing Trust maintains a constant waiting list of 100 applicants looking to secure housing for seniors.

This from Public Works Minister Lt Col David Burch, who said: “Bear in mind that the Trust does not entertain applications until people reach the age of 65 years.”

The Bermuda Housing Trust offers community living for independent seniors, “who have financial needs”, but also able to live independently – at the most affordable prices possible”.

Based on current trends, Col Burch said the “demand will not diminish” for Bermuda’s fastest growing segment in our community.

By 2026, he said: “Seniors 65 years and older will represent a quarter of our population.”

“The first challenge is the demographic the Trust looks to serve,” said Col Burch.

“The numbers of people over 65 years is growing and as our seniors live longer and lead healthier lives they very much prize affordable rental accommodation, that is within their budget, but provides them as well with a quality of life that allows them to live independently ie without dependency on or being a burden to their families.

“Frankly, it is probably what we all want for our parents and ourselves as we grow older.”

His comments were prompted by what he termed “yet another clean and unqualified audit” by the Auditor General, despite the challenges, like paying down an outstanding loan for $12.5 million.

The Minister tabled the latest audited financial statements of the Bermuda Housing Trust in the Lower House yesterday.

The loan was taken out to construct Dr Cann Park in Southampton. Since then, he said: “The Trust has successfully been paying down on the loan to where it now stands at just under $3 million.

“The trustees would like you to know that is no easy task when it holds the line on rents at Dr Cann Park but the cost of maintenance at the property alone climbs – and that is because the infrastructure there is part prefab, four blocks three stories high with wooden steps,” he added.

“In the coming financial year, the Trust is having to tackle two major projects which together will cost more than $250,000.00 – and this on top of regularly scheduled maintenance and anything else that might unexpectedly arise.”

While noting that “the Trust appears to be in a healthy financial position”, he said: “There is much work still to be done,” when it comes to “providing affordable rental accommodation for our seniors”.

But, at any given time, he said: “The Housing Trust maintains a constant waiting list of 100 applicants for homes – and bear in mind that the Trust does not entertain applications until people reach the age of 65 years.

He noted that the Office of the Auditor General successfully completed the report “before the end of of the last calendar year 2023 and within nine months of the close of the most recent financial year for the Trust, March 31st, 2023”.

The trust, established by statute nearly 60 years ago, in 1965, was created to provide affordable rental accommodation for seniors.

“It now consists of five properties spread throughout the island, Haydon Trust, Dr Cann Park, Elizabeth Hills, Purvis Park and Ferguson Park at Southside, St David’s – providing homes for approximately 200 seniors.

“The second challenge for the Trust is prioritizing accommodation where it can for those in urgent need on the waiting list – which is no easy task,” said Col Burch.

“But even more challenging is keeping up with maintenance of its current stock while at the same time maintaining its long-standing policy of not raising the rent on any of its sitting tenants. To date, their tenants have been able to rely on the fact that their rent will remain the same throughout their tenancy, whatever the length.

“The Bermuda Housing Trust would like to maintain that policy for the benefit of our seniors who, in almost all cases, need that kind of support,” he added.

“That said, the trustees oversee what is an ageing stock of homes which place greater and greater demands on maintenance and maintenance costs.

“Meanwhile maintenance costs are increasing, and contractors are not always easy to secure for what is, in some cases, major work.

“Work must also be scheduled around what their tenant seniors can accommodate. Some of that outstanding work also remains as a holdover from what could not be tackled when COVID struck, and precautions had to be taken to protect the vulnerability of seniors.

Dr Cann Park – Bermuda Housing Trust

Ultimately, the Minister said: “The Trust is determined to tackle this outstanding work, and get routine maintenance back on track, but it is going to take time and money.”

He also noted that “the Trust now has a permanent full-time staff of two, to make the Trust more effective in meeting the needs of its clients”.

“The Trust now has an Executive Director, Chandra Arandjelovic and an Office Administrator Ms Sharon Smith.

“The Trust has also engaged a part-time property maintenance manager under a contract of services, Mr Ross Roberts, and as well Ms Judy Knight continues to assist part-time two days a week, principally looking in on tenants and on the condition of their premises.

“Members will appreciate the strain that this places on the Trust budget. But the former way of trying to function well was no longer possible.

“A further change was necessitated when the Trust found that it had to change its office location,” the Minister added.

“A new central office was essential and after an extensive search the Trust was able to locate new premises in Washington Mall Lane just off Church Street and just down from the Hamilton City bus terminal.

“The new rent represented an increase but was secured at a reasonable rent and with much needed additional office space.

“The trustees would like you to know that is no easy task when it holds the line on rents at Dr Cann Park but the cost of maintenance at the property alone climbs – and that is because the infrastructure there is part prefab, four blocks three stories high with wooden steps. In the coming financial year, the Trust is having to tackle two major projects which together will cost more than $250,000 – and this on top of regularly scheduled maintenance and anything else that might unexpectedly arise.

“Dr Cann Park consists of 100 one-bedroom units and no rent is greater than $1,000 a month.

“With its commitment to the bank (HSBC) to pay off the loan, monthly, members will appreciate the challenge trustees are facing when it comes to funding major and routine maintenance.”

The Minister also stated that the Bermuda Housing Trust does not receive any funding from the Government of Bermuda.

But he said: “The Ministry of Public Works and the Bermuda Housing Corporation have been able to provide in kind support from time to time. 

“Architectural, engineering and project management support has been provided on a regular basis.”

The Minister also “publicly acknowledge and thank the trustees of the Bermuda Housing Trust for their tireless work and commitment to this important work over many years”

“Thank you to John Barritt, Chairman; Deputy Chair Mrs Rochelle Simons; Mr Anthony Mouchette; Mr Daniel Robinson; Mr Juan Smith; Ms Thelma Hart; M Marco Bortelli; and Mr Alexander Abbott.

“All of whom, I am pleased to report, will be joined this current calendar year by new member, former Head of the Public Service, Dr Derrick Binns.”