EDITORIAL: Housing venture must not repeat past
THE PROVISION OF adequate housing is a hot-button issue that always attracts the attention of politicians. It is also a matter about which many promises are made but often go unfulfilled despite the hot air spewed over many years by both the Barbados Labour Party and the Democratic Labour Party.
Barbados is in urgent need of affordable housing, a much greater priority than upscale luxury properties or condos, of which there is a satisfactory supply for those who can afford them.
What must be provided is housing for families and low-income people who are in desperate need. The waiting list at the National Housing Corporation (NHC) tells a sad story.
That private developer Benjamin Niles of Apex Construction is offering a solution must be sweet music to many ears. Mr Niles has a sound track record in house construction but is not in business for purely altruistic reasons; and even though deeply grounded in faith, he must grow his operation as a business to ensure both its success and survival.
His promise to build houses for under $200 000 would be welcome news for the many people who aspire to have their own shelter and have been looking, hoping and waiting, often in vain, over many years.
One of the problems in Barbados is the availability of reasonably priced land as escalating prices have pushed it out of the reach of many individuals and made it a challenge even for some developers.
While developers in the market have access to land and have forged ahead with housing projects, the net result has been that houses often end up being priced beyond the capabilities of many house hunters, or are offered with the barest minimum in accoutrements. And while mortgage interest rates and now more attractive and there is a wider market for funding, it is still a hurdle for many seeking their first home.
Any venture government gets into with Apex must end up with two very clear outcomes: the prices should remain within the promised range and there should be immediate occupancy on completion.
There should be no repetition of what has happened at The Villages at Coverley and indeed some of the joint venture projects. Nor should there be the fuss and publicity attached to the ownership transfer of units in various Government housing estates, which now seems to have come to a screeching halt.
Apex may have to come up with new concepts which could include multi-storey housing with a four-storey limit and a focus on “greening” to provide inviting liveable communities.
This offer may even take some of the “politics” out of allocations — in an area that has been bereft of transparency over the years.
This venture may also help to resolve some of the problems being encountered in depressed areas.
It is well accepted that on its own, the NHC cannot meet the country’s affordable housing needs.