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Affordable housing becoming a challenge


Marlon Madden

Affordable housing becoming a challenge

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It is the dream of most Barbadians to own “a piece of the rock” but with the rising cost of living as one of the major deterrents, that dream may take a while or never become a reality for many.
Some of Barbados’ major private providers of middle and lower income homes told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY the demand for housing remained high among the middle and lower income groups but building affordable housing for the “average man” was a major issue due to several factors.
Ideal Homes Limited managing director Stanton Gittens said it was becoming impossible to provide a product for the average Barbadian although increasingly more people wanted to have a home to call their own.
“So the demand is there,” Gittens said. “It is a matter of affordability of the house to meet the person’s salary. In other words, they want something, but the product is too expensive or their salary is too small to acquire the product at the price. So that is the problem in Barbados.
“Under the present circumstances, it is not possible to produce a product that comes within the range of the average-income person.”
Gittens said the problem was not only that materials and labour were expensive, but it was also “the bureaucracy” that one had to go through in order to get things done on a timely basis, adding that interest rates also remained high.
“You go for years and years to get permissions, approvals and everything else, so even if you can get the materials and labour to get the product within reach, those extraneous charges will make that product out of the reach of the [aspiring home owner],” he said.
The long-time contractor said he was in a wait-and-see position at the moment as he was not sure what to expect for the remainder of the year.
Sharing similar thoughts was Benjamin Niles, managing director of Apex Construction Inc. He said while the demand for housing had increased over the years, people’s ability to afford them had decreased.
He said one reason was that a lot of people were still getting the same wages they received three or four years ago but the general cost of housing had gone up during that time, making it difficult for them to afford a home these days despite the growing need. 
Niles added that the current recession was also a major factor to be considered.
“The demand for houses is there. As far as I am concerned, the outlook is positive and people have to get housing or otherwise they will have social issues.”
Edward Barrow, of PDL Construction Services, said despite the growing demand for housing “a lot of people are sceptical about their jobs so a lot of them are not going for a mortgage at this point”.
Barrow said 2009 and 2010 were very slow years for his company, but it was beginning to get more requests.
“I think it is improving. This year, a lot of people are looking to do things . . . . The cost of building is definitely increasing all the time. That is a factor in it too. What we may have to do is lower our cost to attract more customers [but] I expect things to improve from here on,” Barrow added.

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