Minister of Housing Denis Kellman has provided an update on outstanding Government housing projects, which have recently been stalled, saying while he remained concerned about the delay in getting people into the homes, it boiled down to a matter of costs.
“It is easy for people to criticize, but when you get increased costs, you have to go back to the drawing board and you have to look at what your outputs are and you have to look at what your returns might be,” he told Barbados TODAY.
“Also, you have to appreciate that National Housing [Corporation] is not in the Treasury. We do not get subventions, and based on the overdraft that we would have . . . and deficit we would have inherited at 2008, we cannot make prior to 2008 decisions, we have to make current decisions,” he added.
In this regard, Kellman acknowledged that the Parish Land Starter Home Programme in St Philip, which is one of the Government’s largest low-income housing projects, was presently behind schedule by about four years, saying that in addition to rising financial costs, there were legal challenges along the way.
However, he revealed to Barbados TODAY that 80 of the 122 units were due to be allocated shortly.
“The persons that are doing those 80 houses [are carrying out] some remedial work on them, so that those allocations can be done,” he said, adding that with the Dodds Prison right next door consideration had been given to prison officers who work in the area.
“It doesn’t make sense having officers who are working at the prison and looking for housing and don’t recognize that it is a plus to allocate some of them to them,” the Minister of Housing told Barbados TODAY.
However, he could not give any idea of the total cost of the project, while noting that Government has had to scrap plans for building a sewerage plant on the St Philip site due to the costly nature of such an undertaking.
When a Barbados TODAY team visited the site yesterday morning, workers from Rayside Construction were busy installing wells and septic tanks, with one senior worker on the project estimating that they should be fully in place “within the next three months”.
However, the Minister of Housing did not rule out the possibility that Government may have to change the original purpose of the Parish Land project, as well as the other stalled high-rise housing programme at the Grotto, Beckles Road, St Michael.
Pressed to say whether the projects would remain for sale or rental, he replied: “All of that is being considered. You have to ensure that at the end of the day, you do not increase your deficit; that you find yourself in a position that you can continue to subsidize houses for the masses, which is part of our remit.”
The Grotto project, which started back in April 2013, was due for completion in September of the following year, Kellman said a decision would soon be made on how Government planed to make money from that and its availability for occupation.
He could not say when the units at the River View Starter Homes Project in St Philip would be occupied, only that work was still ongoing there.
That project, which was also visited by our team yesterday, started in 2012 to provide 17 units. However, to date electricity has only been connected to five dwellings; eight appeared to be completed while the remainder were at various stages of construction.