With general elections around the corner, there is good news for hundreds of Barbadian families living in Government housing units who have been waiting, in some instances for more than a decade, to own their properties.
Today, the embattled Freundel Stuart administration announced that more than 1,400 housing units had been surveyed and would be officially transferred to occupants in a matter of weeks.
Making the announcement in Parliament as he led off debate on a resolution to vest land at Deacons, St Michael in the National Housing Corporation (NHC), Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler said 3,032 people, which included about 500 from his St Michael North West constituency, would now be “empowered from just tenants to the concept of homeowners”.
“Those persons are within a matter of weeks to months, because of the action we are about to take here today, will be able to call themselves homeowners,” Sinckler revealed.
He explained that by turning over the land to the NHC, the state agency would be able to properly transfer the units to the occupants who qualify under Government’s 20-year rent-to-own programme.
The Member of Parliament for St Michael North West explained that of the 320 units at Deacons Farm, 251 of them were eligible for transfer, while 50 of the 69 units in Rosemont, and 110 of the 154 units in Fernihurst, all of which are in his constituency, were now eligible.
Sinckler also pointed out that occupants of 238 of the 323 housing units in Haynesville, St James would be receiving papers “hopefully over the course of the next weeks”, while 141 of the 240 in Silver Hill, Christ Church would also benefit.
He also explained that the hold up in transfer of units in the Wildey, St Michael area was mainly due to legal matters, adding that the way was now clear and title deeds for 354 of the 459 units would be transferred to the occupants.
Sinckler did not specify why the remaining units did not qualify for transfer, but this could be based on a number of factors, including that occupants had not reached the required 20-year period or the buildings did not pass inspection.
The longstanding issue of transferring of title deeds to occupants came under the microscope last year when fire destroyed one of three bedrooms in one of the NHC units occupied by a family of three in Haynesville, St James in late October, and another unit in late December.
While admitting that the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) had some shortcomings when it came to the transfer of the title deeds to the occupants, Sinckler, sought to explain the delays, saying it was partly due to the tough economic environment and Government’s less than favourable fiscal position, as well as legal matters.
He also explained that assessments had to be carried out as required by the Town & Country Planning Department.
“We had to get surveyors to survey them. All of that had to be done. We had to go in and do upgrades as well to the units. The Government’s cash flow situation has not permitted it to do every single thing that is required to be done,” he added, pointing out that “a pretty penny” was spent on the work that had been carried out.
In his presentation, Sinckler did not give a total cost to Government to date. However, Member of Parliament for Christ Church West Central Stephen Lashley disclosed that surveyance fees for the units in the Silver Hill area had cost about $143,000.
Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) spokeswoman on government business Santia Bradshaw, while welcoming the move to transfer the units to the occupants, questioned the timing, pointing out that it was coming on the eve of a general election after the ruling Democratic Labour Party had approximately ten years in which to make the transfers.
“I am tired of the smoke and mirrors of the Democratic Labour Party . . . . It is not sufficient and not good enough for this administration ten years later, now coming on the eve of an election telling the entire world and the entire Barbados that we are on the verge of transferring these title deeds to persons living in these units,” said Bradshaw.
Parliament is due to be dissolved here on March 5 to make way for elections by June.