Opposition Member of Parliament (MP), Annette Ferguson on Thursday defended the former coalition administration’s track-record in the housing sector, claiming that the APNU/AFC had an effective approach to addressing the population’s housing needs.
Ferguson, who served as one of several ministers who had responsibility for the housing sector, told the National Assembly that there is no truth to claims made by government parliamentarians that the Coalition had no national housing programmes.
“We were told that there wasn’t any national housing strategy; this is far from the truth,” the Opposition MP affirmed during her contribution Budget Debate 2020.
Ferguson asserted that unlike what is being said by the current subject ministers, several ordinary Guyanese, including single mothers, nurses, teachers and other public servants benefited from house lots and were able to become homeowners.
She explained that when the APNU/AFC took office in 2015, it conducted an assessment of the housing sector and found: low take-up in housing schemes, high costs of financing, inadequate public infrastructure and services, the need for a strategic planning and the need for a review of the system to process applications for house lots.
“We were able, as a concerned government to conduct an assessment of the housing sector; what is causing many unoccupied lots, because these are areas that we would have inherited from the PPP/C and these were the challenges facing Guyana’s housing programme.”
“We heard over the past few days that the (APNU/AFC) government did absolutely nothing for the housing sector, but when we took office, we met many houses that were constructed; the 1000 homes there in Perseverance; they were unoccupied, they were defective and we spent billions to fix those houses,” she highlighted.
The Opposition MP added that in many of the housing schemes, there were roads that were in a “deplorable state” and “that is why many of our people would have failed to start their construction; because of the poor infrastructure.”
However, in her presentation on Tuesday, new Minister within the Housing Ministry, Susan Rodrigues, slammed the APNU/AFC’s lackluster achievements in the housing sector and provided photographic evidence of the unoccupied, termite-infested houses the former Government built.
Rodriques revealed that 19 houses built in the community of Experiment in Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) approximately two years ago, are yet to be occupied.
Rodriques noted that the project lacked vision and strategy since the houses were not built to target any particular income bracket but was “another brainless approach to housing and the reason they remain unoccupied up to now. The houses have become dilapidated and infested with termites, making them uninhabitable.”
According to Rodrigues, the 19 houses were collectively priced at $140 million. She slammed the former Government for their failure to cater to the poor and lower-income earners, noting that one flat house was being sold for $8.5 million under the APNU/AFC’s tenure. The former Government’s foot-dragging and failure to provide letters of assurances for persons to get mortgages from the banks was also zeroed in on by the Minister.
Since taking office in 2015, the former APNU/AFC Government had significantly reduced the number of house lots being distributed, as well as their targets, despite the increasing demand by citizens.
In 2016, 2020 house lots were allocated with the target being a mere 1100 for that year while in 2017, the Annual Report of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) showed that a total of only 1131 house lots were allocated for qualified applicants.
The report stated that the original target of allocations for that year was just a mere 1000. This represented a major decrease in house lot allocations as well as reduced target figures, compared to previous years under the former People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Administration.
During their previous term, the PPP/C Administration distributed over 100,000 house lots and over 200 core houses were made available to underprivileged families, while a programme for professional groups provided 200 teachers, nurses and policemen with fast track access to loans for home construction.
The 1000 Homes Project was also launched by the CH&PA under the then PPP/C Administration with the Housing Ministry’s Turn-Key Houses programme. Construction began in May of 2014 and by December of 2014, 100 Buttercup Cottages were completed.
New Minister of Housing, Collin Croal has made it clear that the Housing Ministry will be moving towards the distribution of 10,000 house lots over the next year – one of the promises in the PPP/C election manifesto.