By Staff Writer
Caymanian pride in home ownership is one aspect of the recently published report of the 2021 Census that shouldn’t go unnoticed.
With an array of expansive, expensive developments, the real estate market is literally being priced out of the reach of the average Caymanian. The figures in the census report on the state of Caymanian home-ownership is expected to serve as the basis for government policy of tackling the issue.
A recurrent issue in election campaigns long on promises on how to address this challenge, the trend is showing Caymanians being squeezed out of new homeownership due to soaring costs putting even succession properties under pressure.
This state of affairs is compounded by current economic pressures post-Covid and is highlighted not just by the findings of the census report but made more urgent by the publication of the latest cost of living index by the Economic and Statistics Office (ESO).
It reports that in the second quarter of 2022, housing and utilities recorded the largest average price increase of 19.2 per cent in the CPI(consumer price index) basket.
Among the main factors driving that were imputed rentals for owner-occupiers which rose by 22.4 per cent, materials for the maintenance and repair of the dwelling up by 11.2 per cent and actual rentals paid by tenants up by 10.8 per cent.
The rental market, a longstanding mainstay of the housing and real estate sector, suffered a setback with the Covid pandemic as many work-permit-holding non-national renters returned to the home countries in the interim.
Any expectation that local renting would prop up that sector in the interim did not materialse but there was the expectation that the market would rebound as they returned.
A total of 29,699 households were counted in the 2021 Census. The data shows that 6,939 households were added between 2010 and 2021, representing a 30.5 percent increase over the 11 years.
George Town expanded by 2,999 households; West Bay by 1,856; Bodden Town by 1,668; North Side by 186; East End by 194; and the Sister Islands by 36.
The rate of household increase was highest in Bodden Town at 43.8 percent. The increases in West Bay (40.8%), East End (38.6%) and North Side (34.4%) were higher than the national rate of growth (30.5%).
As detailed in the report, most of the households in the country (14,688 or 49.4% of all households) lived in furnished rented dwellings.
A significant number also lived in their owned homes, with or without a mortgage.
There was a reduction in the proportionate share of household dwellings owned with a mortgage from 27.9 per cent in 2010 to 22.9 per cent, despite the overall number of homes owned with a mortgage increasing by 6.7 per cent.
The percentage of homes owned without a mortgage registered a marginal increase from 19.1 per cent to 20.4 per cent in 2021. The number of homes owned without a mortgage increased by 39.4 per cent relative to the 2010 Census.
Home-ownership without a mortgage was highest in North Side (33.2%) and lowest in George Town (15.7%), while home-ownership with a mortgage was highest in Bodden Town (39.0%) and lowest in East End (15.7%) and the Sister Islands (16.6%)
In terms of distribution, the majority (51.6%) of households in the 2021 count were located in George Town, while West Bay accounted for 21.6 percent and Bodden Town, 18.4 percent. North Side’s and East End’s share of households was 2.4 and 2.3 percent, respectively. The Sister Islands accounted for 3.6 percent.
The proportion of households in George Town and the Sister Islands declined while Bodden Town and West Bay grew since the last Census. West Bay and North Side had relatively stable shares.
MAKING HOUSE A HOME
In 2021, households’ accommodation of choice was mainly detached houses (11,021 or 37.1% of total) and apartments (9,697 or 32.7% of total). In all the districts, except George Town, most households lived in detached houses, while apartments were the most preferred type of dwelling in George Town.
The highest percentage of households (19%) lived in homes with five rooms, most likely comprising of two (2) bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room and a dining room (bathrooms were counted separately).
One thousand three hundred and five households (or 4.4% of total households) lived in one-room dwellings; these households typically share a bathroom and kitchen with another household.
Another finding from the 2021 Census is that the average household size declined marginally to 2.39 persons per household. Except for George Town, which remained constant over the census period, all districts recorded marginal reductions.
One-third of households (34.6%) was single-member household. All the districts had a higher concentration of single-member households. Across all districts, two-member households accounted for about 30.2 percent of households. Large households of five members or more were more likely in Bodden Town, North Side and East End.
CREATURE COMFORTS OR MODERN NECESSITIES?
In the Cayman Islands, 79.9 percent of households own a motor vehicle, with an average of 1.7 per household. About 66.7 per cent of households own a computer, with another 50 per cent owning tablets. On average, ownership of computers and tablets is at 2 per household and 1.8 per household, respectively.
In 2021, households had high amenities ownership ratios: internet (91%), computers (66.7%), radio (39.5%), television (87.4%) and cell phones (94.8%). Of the 94.8 percent with cell phones, approximately 69.1 percent of those households had at least two (2) or more cell phones.
However, only 17.3 percent of households had a fixed-line phone. Among the districts, the proportion of household amenities within households was consistent with the national average
In a statistic that holds particular relevance for Cayman’s location in the hurricane zone, just a little over half (56.7 per cent) of all households had housing structure insurance in 2021.
Among the districts, households in Bodden Town are most likely to be insured (60.8%), followed by George Town (58%) and West Bay (57.1%).
However, most households in East End, North Side and the Sister Islands had no housing insurance.