Officials from the National Housing Corporation (NHC) have not been going into communities and dishing out any title deeds as suggested, says Minister of Housing and Lands Denis Kellman.
The incumbent St Lucy Member of Parliament has also dismissed suggestions that the move by the embattled Freundel Stuart administration to transfer ownership of Government units to the hundreds of Barbadian families at this time was an election ploy.
But he said Opposition forces were busy at work trying to hinder the process.
On Friday, there were reports that NHC personnel were busy handing out title deeds to residents in Deacons, St Michael, which is in Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler’s constituency.
However, Kellman assured Barbados TODAY that was not the case. He explained that officers were simply trying to carry out the surveyance work that was needed for the transfer process to take place.
“So if you see some of our officers it is not to dish out conveyances, but to ensure that people who are entitled to get, that they come on board and that they are not misled,” the minister explained.
“It is true that people are coming to the ministry and receiving their conveyances, but I want to dispel the rumour that we have officers in the field dishing out the conveyances. That is not true,” he insisted.
However, he could not say exactly how may title deeds had already been prepared and transferred, but suggested it was close to 1,000.
“As I speak to you I can tell you when I spoke to the [NHC] chairman this morning (Friday) he was still signing. Every day he is signing because it is a work in progress,” Kellman said, adding that in some cases where there continued to be delays it was “because people are not home and people are not cooperating”.
It was while addressing a session of Parliament at the beginning of February this year that Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler announced that more than 1,400 housing units had already been surveyed and would be officially transferred to occupants in a matter of weeks.
Sinckler had said at the time that with the vesting of land at Deacons, St Michael in the NHC, 3,032 people, which included 500 from his St Michael North West constituency, would now be “empowered from just tenants to the concept of homeowners”.
He explained that 320 units at Deacons Farm, 251 of them were eligible for transfer, while 50 of the 69 units in Rosemount, and 110 of the 154 units in Fernihurst, all of which are in his constituency, were now eligible.
It was also noted that occupants of 238 of the 323 housing units in Haynesville, St James would be receiving papers, while 141 of the 240 in Silver Hill, Christ Church would also benefit.
The hold up in transfer in units in the Wildey, St Michael area was due mainly to legal matters, Sinckler said at the time, adding that the way was clear and title deeds for 354 of the 459 units would be transferred to the occupants.
The then Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) spokeswoman on government business Santia Bradshaw, while welcoming the move to transfer the units to occupants, had questioned the timing, pointing out that it was coming on the heels of a general election.
However, today Kellman rubbished those claims, while suggesting that some Opposition forces were trying to further hold up the transfer process.
“It has been said that it had to do with election time, it had nothing to do with election time,” Kellman insisted, while reiterating that the delay on the part of Government was mainly due to legal proceedings.
“Previously people would have bought houses to properties that were not vested. I had to go through that procedure, we had to find title deeds and it took us long. We had to force people to do what should have been done earlier. And in one instance we even had to correct the acquisition where a place like Fernihurst was bought to be a school by the Barbados Labour Party and then they turned around and used it for housing. So we had to change the usage of that and then we had to do the vesting so we could give proper title,” Kellman explained.
Advising tenants to check with his ministry for the facts instead of taking “bad advice” from those who were seeking to become their parliamentary representatives, Kellman said he was aware this was the “silly season” and people would come up with a number of distractions.
“This is supposed to be the silly season but we have no time for that type of logic. We are not about playing politics. One thing you will not find about this minister, this minister will not play with the lives of poor people . . . . That is why we are doing it in a decent way,” he said.
“As I said last Sunday, it is clear that some people are giving bad advice to some of their constituents where they are advising them not to cooperate. I am saying it is not in the interest of any [aspiring] parliamentary representative to cause people to deprive themselves from having the right to own a piece of land just because of jealousy.
“We are not doing it for Bees, Dees, NDP, UPP or whatever political party, we are doing it for the citizens of Barbados because we understand the meaning of owning a piece of land . . . . So this Government understands the importance of land ownership and that is why we are ensuring that everybody is covered,” he added.