Following the announcement by the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) that there will be the construction of close to 10,000 housing units under a revamped low-income housing drive with apartment and duplex housing units, former Housing Minister Irfaan Ali has deemed this move as “backward and nonsensical”.
The Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) said the decision was conceptualised without the requisite analysis.
“You can’t move into an apartment concept without expert analysis and understanding the housing market, without an understanding on the needs of the people [or] the structure of the market,” Ali was quoted as saying in a report in today’s Guyana Times.
He stated that under his watch, there were “experiments with various models” all aimed at developing sustainable housing. Ali claimed that from analysis conducted in the past, “Guyanese were not willing to move towards apartment units.”
“What is the bank going to hold as collateral, did the ministry work out a level of financing with the bank… the concept does not take into consideration the concept of equity value. When you develop a land that is sold for $500,000 and you put in infrastructure, immediately that parcel goes up to $6-$7 million; how are they going to build these units in [areas] where you have mixed forms of housing – gated, middle, low income,” the former Housing Minister queried.
Ali then challenged the statistics regarding occupancy rate as posited by the CH&PA and opined that over the years, a high occupancy rate of house lots was recorded.
“There is an increase in occupancy over the years: in some areas, you had 65 per cent occupancy; some had 70 per cent occupancy… the number of persons applying for loans over the years grew,” he outlined.
It was announced that the new housing project will cost some $50 billion. This was revealed by Chairman of the CH&PA , former Mayor Hamilton Green, through a Ministry of Communities release on Tuesday when he explained that the previous Government’s housing drive was “overly ambitious”, which he reasoned resulted in a low occupancy rate. It was explained that just over 28,000 of the 66,000 lots developed were currently occupied.
According to Green, the difficulties in accessing financing and the challenges associated with undertaking construction led to the poor occupancy rate. Green was particularly scathing of the 2011-2015 period where the 38 housing areas developed yielded 20,015 lots, but 16,273 are unoccupied, representing more than 80 per cent.
“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 liveable and wholesome communities,” an excerpt from Green’s statement noted.
The CH&PA Chairman said that based on the current applications, 17,851 out of 25,000, are classified as from low-income households. As such, he indicated that the Authority had revamped the current low-income housing programme, which will see the construction of approximately 50 per cent of the 10,000 housing units (apartments and duplexes) inclusive of infrastructural works which will amount to $50 billion. Additionally, he said that another $60 billion would be needed to complete infrastructural works in existing schemes.