A study conducted by four University of the West Indies (UWI) consultants has identified an astonishingly large number of unoccupied, state-owned housing units as an issue which needs to be addressed by Government.
The Barbados Habitat III Report, prepared for the United Nations Global Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development next year, found that the number of unoccupied housing units had increased by a startling 117.9 per cent between 1990 and 2010. During the same period, the number of new homes rose by 14.6 per cent.
The findings of the report were presented and discussed at a consultation this morning. The report noted that the findings imply that the purported high level of unmet demand for homes may be superficial with the possibility that the supply of housing is inappropriate to the type demanded.
“The unoccupied in 1990 was just over 7,000 and 15,000 in 2010 country-wide.” Professor Andrew Downes, one of the four consultants who prepared the report, told the gathering that included Minister of Housing and Lands Dennis Kellman. “So we have a challenge in relation to unoccupied units that we need to address,” he added.
Professor Downes, the Vice Chancellor for Planning and Development, placed the findings against a backdrop of “no significant population growth” occurring during the 20 year period which was the focus of the study.
He told Barbados TODAY after the presentation that the issue involving unoccupied Government-owned housing units remained to this day.
He noted that consideration was being given to alternative housing solutions, including high rise apartments, to replace the cultural preference for the single, detached, low density option.
Addressing the issue of unoccupied homes, Kellman contended that Government had to ensure that prospective tenants were placed in units which were environmentally safe. He said the housing projects at The Grotto in St Michael and Constant in St George, which were yet to be occupied, should be ready by next month.
Speaking about another unoccupied project at Parish Land, St Philip, he said the delay was an environmental problem related to “how to deal with the sewerage system and so on”. He explained: “. . . it is not just building houses and placing them, we also have to worry about the water supply of Barbados.”
Kellman thanked the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) which he said had come up with the best solution for the area, thus paving the way for prospective owners to take possession of the units after the project is completed probably before the end of the year.
He said Government could not do as it liked but had to conform to the requirements of the EPD. Explaining the delay related to the Grotto project, he said it faced financial issues brought on by the economic crisis. (EJ)