“Town” should be a city

The number one issue facing our island is that our cost of living is too high such that the average Bermudian struggles for afford a reasonable living.  The solution isn’t to turn every Bermudian into a high paid international business worker.  Instead serious efforts need to be made to reduce our cost of living.  One way would be to allow Hamilton to become a city by eliminating the cathedral height restriction.

Long time readers of this blog will know that I attribute the bulk of the island’s problems to  a lack of adequate housing built to accommodate the population growth due to expats.  Due to policy restrictions we’ve never been allowed to build up and instead we’ve built out.  It has led to a great many problems.  We need to fix this errant policy: Allow “Town” to become a city.


Why?  Here’s the breakdown:
  1. Bermudians can’t all be employed in high salary white collar jobs (and don’t want to be)
  2. Low salary and blue collar jobs are unattractive because they don’t earn enough due to our cost of living is too high.
  3. Our cost of living is too high primarily because of the significant rise of housing costs over the years
  4. Housing costs have risen because demand far outstripped supply.
  5. Demand outstripped supply because we had a flood of international workers and we didn’t adjust policy accordingly
  6. Bermuda has limited available land mass, the only answer is to go up to support our population.  Instead we restricted this both in town and on the rest of the island.
  7. People built housing in every nook and corner, often at very high cost because the cost of land, materials and construction could not be distributed over many different units.
  8. Building residential in town was not much of an option because it was far too expensive vs. the alternative of building commercial space.
  9. Commercial space is far cheaper to build than residential and thus that has been the preference (empty re-configurable floors with a single set of bathrooms and kitchen out compete the heavy requirements for residential including fire walls and bathroom/kitchen per floor)
  10. Residential was rarely built because the costs such as land, construction, design and materials need to be distributed over many floors to make it cost effective.
  11. “Town” (Hamilton) has a building height restriction according to the height of the cathedral
  12. The height restriction artificially limits the market and preferences development of properties which can yield a better return, eg high end residential space and commercial space
  13. Thus there’s limited residential, especially reasonably affordable, real estate in town and an abundance of commercial real estate from the last boom.
  14. Many ex-pats can and would live in town, especially young single professionals and couples.  Some Bermudians would too
  15. Instead many opt to rent or share a house / apartment / condo, often further from the city
  16. Rather than staying in the city, they live elsewhere, often leaving the city to not return in the evenings because of the commute involved.
  17. This makes expats more likely to want a car, and less likely to spend their money in shops, restaurants and nightlife
  18. 2-3 expats sharing a house can typically easily out-compete two working Bermudians with a family, even if they’re at the upper income levels
  19. The average Bermudian can’t compete
  20. Bermudians can no longer afford a decent living because housing is a heavy tax on cost of living, especially blue collar workers.
  21. Working hard is no longer an answer to getting ahead, the cost of living far outstretches what most Bermudians can afford despite multiple jobs
  22. Bermudians are then competing against foreigners who can work for cheaper, live under mediocre conditions because they’re able to save money and move back home where cost of living is far cheaper.
  23. Bermudians feel like our home is no longer affordable or accessible, like we’re second class citizens in our own country
  24. Social problems develop, etc…
  25. Shall I go on?
A great many of our problems would be positively impacted if Hamilton is allowed to become a city.
Many expats would be happy to live in the city.  They really only want access to a handful of things, the city, shops, the beaches and the airport.  More people living in the city means more life, vibrancy, commerce and ultimately jobs, nightlife and a better prospect for tourists.  It also means less people on our roads and consuming our infrastructure.  Most of all, it means more jobs for Bermudians and it means that more of Bermuda is freed up for Bermudians.