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20 years to fix ‘housing mess’

SHAWN CUMBERBATCH, [email protected]

20 years to fix ‘housing mess’

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Minister of Housing, Lands and Rural Development George Payne fears it will take 20 years to fix the housing “mess” he said was left by the last Government.

Payne said the National Housing Corporation (NHC) was grappling with millions of dollars in losses at housing projects across the island.

The St Andrew MP also told the House of Assembly yesterday that while the authorities could “point fingers at individuals” regarding some unspecified financial matters in housing, “we just do not have the evidence to go further and it is a loss that we will have to accept”.

He noted there was an NHC waiting list for Barbadians seeking housing, but the country’s housing stock was “depleted”. Payne did not foresee this problem being solved within the next five to ten years.

The minister was wrapping up debate on a resolution to vest Crown lands at Chancery Lane, Christ Church, in the National Housing Corporation. The resolution was passed.

“We have a situation now where in the present economic situation, notwithstanding how we might feel in terms of the Government being responsible for housing everybody, it is more or less an impossible task,” he said.

“What we have seen in the past ten years is a number of structures. You may call it a so-called housing programme by the Democratic Labour Party. Some of us have been critical of the National Housing Corporation but obviously even the National Housing Corporation has been sabotaged by the last Government.”

He said the NHC lost $4 million on the first phase of houses built at Lancaster, St James, and a $1 million loss on the second stage. This was in addition to about $500 000 lost on the housing project in Parish Land, St Philip.

“As I speak, Constant [St George housing project] has just been completed and . . . the average cost per house is something like $270 000 and the houses were sold at $100 000,” he added.

The attorney also referred to “a situation during the past ten years where contractors were assigned to various developments [and] the National Housing Corporation was not at all involved.

“I am not saying that the minister was the person who personally selected those contractors, but you have situations where the contractors were selected, the ministry had no knowledge with respect to the selection of the contractors, none of the contracts went out to tender, the National Housing Corporation at the level of the chairman and the management of the National Housing Corporation did not know about the contractors,” he told the Lower House.

The NHC’s challenge also included people not paying rents owed, and the minister said there were situations at the NHC “where tenants were specifically told not to pay rents, and rents have accumulated to the tune of $59 000”.

In such circumstances, said Payne, “it is difficult for us to figure what we will do with respect to those persons who have applied to National Housing Corporation for housing because . . . the housing stock has been depleted. (SC)