Tuesday, December 05, 2006

houses & cars

Bermuda is only about 22 square miles & for such a small island, one of the growing concerns is the growing number of cars. The government has the harrowing task of doling out the ratio of one car per household. It does this by assigning what is called an 'Assessment Number' to each household. No assessment number, no car. However, a single house can have more than one household, if the house has been converted into apartments. Architecturally, a very common strategy as most houses are built with potential rental income in mind. The growing number of international business has contributed to the high standard of living, which has also given rise to asinine house prices. No doubt this affects Bermudians. Average house prices are about $800,000 & with a required 5% down payment which amounts to $200,000 You can see how this can be a bit challenging for the locals. So, for those that own a home, renting out their additional conversions not only eases the mortgage payments & living expenses, but also relieves the pressure of what would be a disastrous housing crisis for all.

Getting back to the growing number of cars on the island, most complain about it & correlate it with the steady stream of ex-pats. But in all fairness, most ex-pats I know don't own cars & still continue to ride scooters. Owning a car on the island, like everything else, is expensive. There are restrictions on car sizes for automobile dealers bringing in their wares. It's a small island with narrow roads & even narrower driveways. Small cars fit well in small spaces. My Cavalier would not have have made the cut, I can tell you that. A brand new car will cost you a pretty penny in Bermuda - the government import duty charged on a brand new car is 75% and I'm pretty sure the dealers are more than happy to pass that cost onto the customer. Yay! This is one of the reasons why used cars have a really good resale value. As it cost me, so it will cost you. Anyway, continuing on, the yearly registration fee, also depending on the size of the car, begins at $260.00
Petrol (for those of you who speak the Queen's English) or gas, is of course priced higher than the US. We don't really pay attention to what it costs per gallon because it only costs us scooter owners, a mere $8 - $10 a week to fill up.

You would think that the above aggregate mentioned would be a deterrent to future car owners, but the reality is that families need cars. Unlike India, where families can manage with a scooter outfitted with a side carriage to carry the wife & kids, Bermuda's winding roads would not be friendly nor practical to the attachment. So, while for families it's a necessity, others like singles or couples prefer to transition into car owners for safety reasons.
The steady automobile increase is a concern & is on the government's mind. I
n an effort to combat this increasing traffic on Bermuda's roads, the newly elected premier put forth a proposal in November to scrap public transportation fares all together in the hope to encourage more commuters to take the friendly way. Whether this will be implemented, remains to be seen. I can tell you one thing: if it goes through, there just might be less roadkill & the frogs will begin to repopulate thereby increasing their numbers.

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