As Barbados seeks to keep afloat during one of the world’s worst economic downturns, one area that remains a priority for Barbadians and Government is affordable housing.??
And, with some $125 million spent on Capital projects, $20 million on General Workers’ loans, and $12.5 million on maintenance repairs during the period 2008 to 2012, the Ministry of Housing continues its quest to ensure that decent and quality lodging is accessible to all Barbadians.
While we in the region over the past four years have seen our North American and European neighbours struggle with a shortage of houses available at reasonable prices and foreclosures occurring daily, the Barbadian housing market, in its current state, has made it increasingly difficult for people to acquire a home.?? However, despite these challenges most Bajans still dream of ???owning a piece of the rock’.
It is for this reason that the National Housing Corporation (NHC) under the guidance of the Ministry of Housing and Lands remains committed to catering to persons from all walks of life, especially low income earners including maids, general workers and security guards, so their dreams could also come to fruition.
Last October, with much fanfare, the NHC launched its Urban High Rise programme; a Joint Venture Partnership approach with the private sector with 72 units at Valerie, St. Michael.????????
In outlining the various projects and initiatives being undertaken, Minister Michael Lashley explained that his Ministry aimed to provide affordable housing solutions to Barbadians.
"Some Barbadians cannot afford to purchase land outright; can’t afford to obtain a mortgage and we have those in the urban corridor, who might be living on land, and they don’t have title and, therefore, they are really at the whims and fancy of the landlord," he surmised.
Mr. Lashley added that the landlord had the advantage of proceeding to court and could obtain a court order in an effort to remove occupants from the land.
However, the Housing Minister pointed out that in situations like that the high rise programme would prove beneficial to individuals because they were "maximising land space, particularly in the urban corridor."
Explaining that his Ministry is looking at available crown lands in the urban corridor, Mr. Lashley pointed out this was in an effort to "construct a high rise, two-storey or three storey building, to provide better quality housing which would include a better standard of living and, of course, affordable housing to some extent."
Highlighting why Barbadians should take advantage of some of the Ministry’s incentives, he added: "For instance, we have house and land selling for under $180,000.?? You cannot go on the private market and get a house for $180,000; the land alone costs at least $100,000 and, of course, you have to construct a house; so, if you go on the private market you have to start with at least $200,000.
"So, we offer affordable housing.?? In fact, the Ministry has completed projects at Marchfield, French Village, Greens and Work Hall and other areas… And, we have in fact sold all, so there is a demand for that type of housing," the Minister stressed.
With respect to seeing the concept of community house building, he said: "I went overseas and I recognised that a community built a development by itself and, I think, years ago Barbadians, we had houses moving every Sunday," the Housing Minister stated, while adding that "villagers would come out, the carpenters and masons would come out and lend a hand and actually construct a house and even place it back on its foundation."?? He stressed: "So, if we can get back to that, self-help that is something that the Ministry would want to look at."
Mr. Lashley also touched on the 20- year programme, which will see tenants of housing units owning the legal title document to their respective unit.?? He described that process as a necessary one maintaining that it was "a dream of every Barbadian to own a piece of this rock".
He said: "You can’t be living in a unit for 20 years or over and paying rent and down the road we cannot see you owning this property.?? Therefore, government decided that we had to make sure that more Barbadians own a house.?? So, from that point of view I think we propelled the project forward and we had tremendous response from it.
"At least 1,900 persons out of 2,500 qualified for the programme.?? And, although we had some challenges, the response has been tremendous.?? It is an attractive programme and we want to be able to touch the masses."
And, with the demand for housing increasing at a rapid pace the Ministry of Housing and Lands remains committed to reaching Barbadians from all walks of life in an effort to help them attain their dream.