‘The Robin Hood Programme’: Foreign Investment should support social housing as well as the Tourist industry in St Kitts and Nevis.
After a recent visit to Nevis we wanted to investigate the feasibility of a new scheme to kick-start the debate about decent social housing in the Caribbean.
In almost every country around the world you can buy some form of residency or citizenship. In many Caribbean countries it has become a stable form of income.
Sugar used to be the backbone of St Kitts & Nevis’ economy. However, decreasing world sugar prices prompted the government to close the sugarcane industry in 2005. A year earlier the government set up a diversification fund to invest in new skills and industries, the Economic Citizenship Program, which mainly aims to attract wealthy foreigners.
The programmme has two qualifying options: (a) investment in real estate; (b) cash donation to the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF).
The program injected more than $74 million into the $766 million St. Kitts & Nevis economy in 2013. The IMF forecast revenue from the programme to be at about $37 million per year from 2015-2017.
A visit to Charlestown, the capital of Nevis, indicates that not much of this new found wealth is reaching the poor. There is a visible level of impoverishment on the streets, a need for improved housing and the level of diabetes amongst the poor is frightening.
A recent World Health Organization assessment shows that 32% of men over 20 years old and 49% of 20+ year old females in St. Kitts and Nevis have been categorized as overweight or obese, a controllable diabetes risk factor.
The second and most important feature is the fact that many of these new citizens have to purchase property on the island so many new apartments and developments are going up. Most of these are left empty the majority of the year so people can claim their citizenship. This is something that is also happening in many other Caribbean islands.
The number of projects approved for developments for economic citizenship far outweighs the number of potential visitors to the island.
Approved Developments on Nevis:
- Botanical Gardens
- Bush Hill
- Carino Hamilton Estate
- Fern Hill Villa Development
- Fort Ashby Beach Club
- Four Seasons Resort Estates
- Jones Estates and Red Hawk Ridge
- Sunset Ridge (Live Nevis)
- Mount Nevis Hotel
- Nelsonâ Springs Beach Villas and Spas
- Oualie Beach Resort
- Paradise Garden Estate
- Rawlins Plantation
- Royal Getaway Estate
- The Hermitage Plantation Inn Villas and Estates
In 2014 Nevis attracted 100.000 visitors, and by 2024, international tourist arrivals are forecast to total 190,000.*
The majority of these developments are part of existing hotels and these investments provide hotels with extra capacity for holiday makers. However the number of developments and the success of the economic programme is likely to provide far more capacity than the number of holidaymakers that will visit the island.
Our suggestion is that the St Kitts and Nevis government work with developers to either use unused inventory for short term housing needs, but more importantly create a new category /market for these properties where the government rent them back and rent them to local residents at an affordable rent. Ironically, many of the investors would probably prefer a lower, but consistent income, rather than an inconsistent seasonal opportunity that cannot guarantee the returns through hotels.
*World Tourism 2013