‒ says lack of land a “lazy excuse for discontinuing housing development”
Government’s rush to move in the direction of constructing apartments, condominiums and duplexes could yield much disaster since, apart from it being a backward move, there were obviously no studies carried out to determine the needs of the people.
Former Housing Minister Irfaan Ali, said too that talk of there not being enough land for further housing development is nothing more than a lazy excuse for not continuing what could have been a booming sector.
On Tuesday, Minister with responsibility for Housing, Valerie Sharpe-Patterson, said there was an issue with the availability of land in the country and that Government would be moving to begin the construction of apartment complexes by the first quarter of 2017.
The new housing project will see some 3300 apartments and 1000 duplexes being constructed in five regions across Guyana.
Ali, who had previously criticised the project after it was first announced, said it is obvious that a needs assessment was not done before implementing the plan.
“I don’t think that a proper study has been done in relation to the project, and the idea that we don’t have enough land is because the thinking of Government is concentrated in one area. If you put infrastructure and investment, you are going to open up new opportunities to develop new land. That is a lazy excuse for not continuing to expand the housing sector,” he told this publication on Wednesday.
He said if such decisions are going to be made, then some study or analysis of the markets must be carried out.
“First of all you need to ensure that people are inclined to go in this direction,” he argued. According to Ali, this new project will most definitely move away from what has been in existence for some time, including the Young Professional Scheme, which had allowed persons to even move to the construction of their own homes.
On the question of the subsistence of these apartments/duplex, Ali questioned whether all the resources would be put into these apartments. “How are we going to deal with the housing demands in Region Six and 10? Are we saying that we are going to move all these people to a central location?”
He said that consideration should have also been given to the “mix”. He explained that taking up equity value for affordable homes, the former Government did a mix between middle-income and private development, which he said drove up the value of land around that area. Private development invested huge sums of resources in the development of housing and that ultimately drove up the value of other areas.
“If you do a survey among potential home owners, you will see that the majority of them will not want to go in this direction. How will these apartments be financed, secured with equity value the mortgage act sales? Was this discussed with the banks or is this suitable, how it will be managed? These are all important questions that need to be answered. I think this is a step backwards and in the wrong direction,” he said.
On the issue of the availability of land, Ali said Guyana has enough land across the country. He said one of the problems was that persons did not want to relocate from places they grew up, particularly on the East Coast of Demerara.He said the previous Housing Ministry had identified new phases of lands, which included Cummings Lodge, the entire Ogle area with close to 500 acres of available land space. He said they had also moved to expand the road between Diamond on the East Bank of Demerara, and Ogle on the East Coast; an agreement that was already approved by the Indian Government. He said the road link between Diamond and Ogle had opened up thousands of acres of new land for the construction of houses and that infrastructure would have catered for easy connection between the East Bank, East Coast and even leading into Georgetown.
Ali explained that along that new highway, the housing sector had also identified four additional locations for exit off to the city, which would have been shorter. That road, he said, was designed to create new value for the land in that scheme. That new road would have created new front lots, opening thousands of acres of new lands. There were also areas set aside for industrial and commercial development.
“These industrial and commercial areas set aside, would have created jobs and opportunities for the people living around there.” He said it’s not just building the homes; it is ensuring that an entire infrastructural and investment mechanism is put in place to take care of the livelihood of people.
“Especially if you’re going into affordable homes, you don’t want people going too far away for work and other things.” He said that is why Government had moved the second phase of the affordable homes on Eccles, East Bank Demerara. (Guyana Times)