False advertising?

I said in my Gazette column that there was going to be the need for a big fact checking exercise in this campaign, well the UBP sent me a press release dismantling the rather sparse content of what appears to be a rather hastily put together and misleading PLP housing insert in today's paper.

PLP “Progress Report” shows no real progress

By Jon Brunson, United Bermuda Party Shadow Minister for Housing

Most people know the PLP Government has done a poor job meeting the housing needs of people during its nine years in power.

And we believe most people have seen the frantic photo-op “activities” over the past few months – of groundbreakings and ministers touring half-completed projects – as nothing more than a last-minute pre-election scramble to portray successes where there have been none.

Today, the PLP itself has shown how empty its record on housing has been.

The glossy, multi-coloured “Progress Report” on housing inserted into The Royal Gazette is a sham. There is no other word for it.

We begin with the front cover. The photograph shows a blue cottage with a caption reading Rockaway Senior Housing Project.

But the cottage is not part of the Rockaway project. It is in fact a cottage located at Southside, St. David’s – a cottage that was designated for first-time homebuyers under a plan created with the United Bermuda Party in the mid 1990s.

Page 2. Here we see the image of what appears to be a pleasant family home under the headline: “Geared-to-income Housing a Success.” Well, it’s no home. It’s the Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy, a government school that provides educational and therapeutic services to students, ages 4 through 19.

It is, in our view, an extreme example of misleading advertising.

Page 3. Here we see the Rockaway Senior Housing Project in “various stages of completion.” Where to begin?

It is perhaps symbolic that 3 of the 4 photographs show incomplete buildings, but that’s not the story. The Rockaway development is a project of the Bermuda Housing Trust, a charitable organization to provide affordable housing for seniors. Yes, the government donated the land, but for the PLP to now take credit and score political points for housing built by an outside agency, without acknowledging the Trust, is not exactly being upfront.

On page 4 the brochure takes us back to the Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy.

On page 5, we’re back at Southside. Again, all the houses pictured were designed for sale to first-time homebuyers under the United Bermuda Party Government in the late 1990s, a huge success at the time. The plan broke new ground commercially by enabling purchases with a five per cent down payment – making it possible for many people to own their first home.

On page 6, we see photographs of ‘new housing’ at Anchorage Road in St. George’s. We celebrate the end result – 16 families living in 16 units, but one must remember that the project, from start to finish, took eight years to complete; eight years to build and renovate 16 housing units. Perhaps nothing better typifies PLP Government’s casual, disengaged approach to this basic issue than the eight-year Anchorage Road project.

Finally on page 7, we return for the third time to the Dame Marjorie Bean Hope Academy.

The glossy brochure finishes on the last page with the PLP slogan “Solid! As The Rock”, but the photographic claims in the preceding pages are anything but solid.

Finally, as a footnote, we must call people’s attention to the fact that two years ago when the Bermuda Housing Trust tried to impose huge rent increases on seniors in 82 units, the government sought to distance itself from the controversy and declined to intervene.

The United Bermuda Party Opposition led by John Barritt took up the cause of the seniors and launched a court action. The Government said at the time that we were playing politics with the issue. The court action was eventually settled on behalf of the protesting seniors, with the rent increases phased in over two years.

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