A number of residents of Deacons Farm, St Michael were in a jubilant mood today, revelling in the expectation that they could soon become homeowners.
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler announced last Friday, as he led off debate on a resolution to vest land at Deacons in the National Housing Corporation, that more than 1,400 housing units had been surveyed and would be officially transferred to occupants in a matter of weeks.
Sinckler, the Member of Parliament for St Michael North West, which includes Deacons Farm, said 3,032 people in total, inclusive of 500 from his constituency, would receive their papers.
When Barbados TODAY visited Deacons Farm this morning, the future owners of the housing units, many of whom revealed they had not paid rent for quite some time, said they were looking forward to receiving the papers that would officially confirm them as property owners.
“Well you have to say ‘officially own’ because I haven’t paid rent in a while, but to get the papers I will be very proud,” Ena Browne, who has resided in the area for over 40 years, said.
“If you have to do business you can now show that you are the owner. I know the time was going to come. Nothing happens before its time. So I don’t think it is overdue, I thank God that I’m living to see this time.”
The announcement has been criticized by the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) as political gimmickry, with BLP spokeswoman on Government business Santia Bradshaw questioning the timing, pointing out that it was coming on the eve of a general election after the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) had approximately ten years in which to make the transfers.
It made no difference to Sinckler supporter Monica Holder, who said there was no need for her representative to shower homes on the constituency for him to retain the seat.
“I feel very grateful. It is about time. I would say it is overdue but they had to take time to get the land surveyed. Good things come to those who wait. I don’t know the last time I pay rent to be honest,” the 78-year-old Holder said.
“People are saying, why wait until the eve of the election to give houses to get another vote? Mr Sinckler doesn’t have to give away houses to get another vote, his votes are here for him already, so he doesn’t have to give away anything. We are here for him regardless of what people say.”
Meanwhile Calvin Weekes told Barbados TODAY the transfers were a long time in coming, and he was simply awaiting official proof of ownership.
“We practically own the houses already, but we have no papers. I feel that it is time enough for us to get the papers. There are so much promises that have been made you just have to wait and see,” he said.
Another resident who requested anonymity was singing the same tune, but believed Government was using the housing issue as an opportunity to gain votes.
“I am grateful, but we have no proof. We haven’t been given no papers so we don’t know for sure. After all of the years not paying rent . . . somebody now here should have papers already.
“We know elections coming up and everybody trying to get back their seat. Some of the politicians know that their seats are gone, a lot of them, so the announcement is part of the plan to get back in. We know that,” the person said.
A similar accusation was made by BLP candidate for St James South Sandra Husbands, who claimed the DLP was misleading the people by promising them ownership of the housing units.
She contended that there was a clear pattern that dated back to the campaign for the 2008 general election.
“This Government in 2008 had said that they were giving people the houses as an election gimmick, and people were excited. Who would not be? Everybody wants their own property so people bought into the promises and by the next election the properties weren’t transferred,” Husbands said, adding that even if the homes were transferred before the next election, there would still be concerns.
“If they seek to raise a loan using the asset, to back that loan the bank is going to insist that house be insured and they will not be able to have those houses insured unless they are rewired. They are giving people a lemon and no Government should be doing that to their people,” Husbands contended.