Nov 02, 2016 News
– 80 percent of lots issued over last 5 years still unoccupied
– Schemes plagued by incomplete, inadequate infrastructure
With over a year and half in office, the David Granger-led administration has announced plans to fix the
country’s housing drive, which has slowed considerably as new lands become scarce.
But an overhaul of the housing programme will be anything but cheap, with one top official warning that it will cost over US$550M to fix problems in the existing housing schemes.
Chairman of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA), Hamilton Green, in a statement outlining the way forward, insisted that any new programme will have to take into account what transpired between 1995 and 2015 – the 20 years when the previous Government, under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C), embarked on an ambitious housing campaign.
“The current administration inherited an overly ambitious programme that sought to provide a serviced house lot to anyone desirous of acquiring one and latterly the provision turnkey units,” he said.
During those 20 years, over 66,000 house lots in the various schemes across the country were developed.
To date, Green said, some 28,220 or 45 percent of those lots that were divested are still unoccupied. This situation was further exacerbated during the 2011-2015 period.
During this period, of the 38 housing areas developed which yielded 20,015 lots – of these 16,273 of these remain unoccupied, representing more than 80%.
Green made it clear that the previous programme was unsustainable when it is taken into account that a projected $60B is needed to complete and regularize the 380 housing and squatting areas.
With over 25,000 applications for house lots and turn-key homes on CH&PA’s files, the Chairman said that the question that needs to be asked is why the programme was allowed to continue along the same path, despite the massive backlog.
“In seeking answers to this critical question, the administration has recognized that that model adopted was not working, and it was more of just land divestment rather than seeking to improve quality of life, since the numerous housing areas are still plagued with incomplete and inadequate infrastructure and lack of the necessary social facilities and services.”
The CH&PA head said that because of the challenges, households were burdened with the prospect of accessing financing and the hurdles associated with undertaking their own construction.
“This model was definitely not aiming for the good life.”
The situation, he explained, forced the administration to recently conceptualize a new model to improve the housing delivery system to address the backlog of 25,000 applicants, particularly the 17,851 who can be classified as low income households.
He explained: “This new model seeks to move beyond the provision of serviced lots to create livable and wholesome communities through the provision of full infrastructure; the necessary social facilities and services and the supply of housing units.”
The new model will also address the issue of reduction in infrastructure cost, since it seeks to increase density.
“The programme also promotes inclusivity and good planning practices, since it focuses on improving the living conditions of both coastal dwellers and hinterland Indigenous households. It incorporates an urban renewal component to restore and beautify open spaces/reserves through the relocation and re-settlement of squatters living under disastrous and unsafe conditions to livable and wholesome communities.”
According to the CH&PA Chairman, the projected cost of construction of approximately half of the 10,000 housing units-apartments and duplexes – inclusive of infrastructural works – is around $50 billion (USD$250M).
Government may very well have to add another $60B (US$300M) needed for completion of infrastructure in existing schemes.
“This is the challenge that the administration is faced with to bring coherence to a housing programme that provides solutions or shelter as opposed to sale of house lots.”
The statements by the CH&PA Chairman would be a troubling one for the administration as the economy, dampened by the situation on lower commodity prices, has been affected.
Upon taking office last year, the Granger administration announced deep worry over the state of the housing sector.
In addition to the thousands of applications on file, officials found vast swaths of prime lands on the East Bank Demerara granted to private developers for housing purposes, but there was little evidence of work done.
In many of the new housing schemes, there was still significant infrastructure work to be completed.
Housing was one of the major drivers of the economy in recent years before the slump, providing thousands of jobs in hardware, transportation and contracting, and spin-offs for the banking and legal sectors.
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