By Leonard Gildarie
The debate has been raging this past week over land on the East Bank of Demerara that has been granted to private developers to construct homes. On one hand, the Opposition has expressed unhappiness over the seeming lack of transparency in which the land, said to be between Eccles and Providence, was granted. The land is being developed at the moment to include gated communities.
The Opposition wanted to know how much monies were paid and whether the process was fair.
Housing Minister Irfaan Ali has responded, and in a candid interview, listed a number of partnerships that were developed to help make the acquisition of homes, and subsequently the construction, more affordable. Because of the importance of the information, I thought this week we would deviate from the norm and would share this with you.
The Housing Ministry is the policy making arm for the sector while the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) is the operational arm.
Ali insisted that there is a structured housing policy that is aligned to Guyana’s long-term development. It is not in any way haphazard.
According to the Minister, housing and the role of the CH&PA is not just the development of land. It is about the development of sustainable communities; that is, communities that are socially and economically viable. Moves are being made to introduce community development plans for many of the old housing schemes.
“These community development plans take into consideration the socio-economic composition of the different communities in designing development plans for these communities,” Ali stressed.
Plots of land in the Diamond Housing Scheme that were allocated for $92,000 are now worth between $5M and $8M. Arguing that it would be baseless to assume that some land on the East Bank are prime, Ali made it clear that plans to develop an alternative public road behind the housing schemes, will make this a non-issue.
“The East Bank Development is very complex, and one cannot simply ascribe or assign primeness to it because of the location. As a matter of fact, the infrastructure work that has been done on the East Bank Demerara has already raised the equity value tremendously.”
Government’s housing programme is heavily subsidized, between 70%–700%, depending on the area, and the level of income earner to which the allocation is made.
The Minister also spoke about partnerships, another way in which housing is being made more affordable. For example, there is the partnership with hardware stores. This, he said, has seen the signing of a number of agreements which allow low income and middle-income families to access construction and building materials at preferential prices.
The second partnership relates to professional groups. This includes teachers and nurses among others. In Westminster, on the West Bank of Demerara, CH&PA is partnering with the nurses’ association and police association to target their members directly.
The third partnership relates to the financial institutions for the “Turn Key” homes.
“Under this partnership, we are working in close collaboration with the various financial institutions in ensuring that we deliver a “Turn Key” product to the customer at the best possible interest rate, whilst we try to reduce transaction costs by having the CH&PA do a lot of the detailing work so that allottees could access their homes.”
An example of this partnership is the low-income “Turn Key” homes on the East Bank, East Coast, and West Coast of Demerara. These are homes which are being built by the CH&PA and sold ready-to-move-in to a successful applicant who must meet certain conditions. Over the last two years, these homes have created direct employment for 107 persons, the Minister pointed out.
The fourth partnership relates to private contractors.
“In this partnership, the CH&PA and private contractors work on producing low-income and middle-income housing through economies of scale to meet the housing needs of Guyanese.”
The fifth partnership relates to young professionals.
“In this partnership, we target young attorneys, young accountants, young doctors, young technicians, young engineers, and other young professions in another “Turn Key” operation. This partnership has gained tremendous strength and has received tremendous demand from the public.”
Ali pointed out that more of the young professionals prefer this route to achieve their housing ambitions.
“As a result of this single partnership, the CH&PA has created direct employment for 465 persons over the last two years.”
The sixth partnership, Ali disclosed, relates to commercial and clerical workers.
“In this partnership, we are targeting clerical workers, for example, sales staff and clerks. This partnership is also a Turn Key operation which many may have seen being referred to as the “100 Homes” initiative.”
This partnership has seen tremendous response from the public with a current demand of 1,500 homes.
The seventh partnership is with private developers.
“In this partnership, developers are granted land to construct homes, but these target more the middle-income and high-income markets. Just under 400 acres on the East Bank of Demerara has been allocated to private developers.”
According to Ali, Guyana’s housing programme has been attracting attention, with authorities in the region and Latin America visiting to see firsthand what the country is doing.
Obviously, from the Minister’s statements there is more information available on these partnerships. The hardware stores; the banks and NBS; the developers and the Housing Ministry will be places for more details.
I am sure there will be lots of questions. Continue dropping those comments to [email protected] and do enjoy the weekend.
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