High-rise housing has long been touted as a possible solution to Barbados’ dilemma of high demand for housing but limited land space. While three such units are now available, Members of Parliament questioned on Wednesday whether Barbados was truly ready for them.
As the Lower House debated a resolution vesting land at Chancery Lane in Christ Church to the National Housing Corporation (NHC) for “housing solutions”, MP for St. James South, Sandra Husbands, stated that “Living in high rise buildings will be a psychological challenge for most Barbadians owing to our cultural mindset. We are accustomed to having our own personal space, a ‘paling’ behind our homes for added privacy, and we also like to see our neighbours and interact with them, which is not always easy to do in high rise buildings.”
Based on that perspective, Husbands said, “if we go that route, our architects must bear those cultural norms in mind, and I would suggest having communal areas every two floors for recreational purposes, where children can play and older residents can chat and lime with each other.”
MP for St. James North Edmund Hinkson also spoke about the need for social activities, sports facilities and full access to amenities and essential services at high-rise buildings.
Minister of Housing and Member of Parliament for St. Andrew George Payne agreed that high-rise housing was a useful option, but said the country should err on the side of caution based on experiences with units at the Grotto on Beckles Road and Valerie at Brittons Hill, which the previous Democratic Labour Party administration completed during its time in office.
“Right now we do not have the financing to deal with this, and we feel so burned by Grotto and Valerie that unless the land is paid upfront like Coverley, it would not be advisable for the NHC to enter into any high rise project in this way.”
Sandra Husbands foreign trade minister, reminded Barbadians that any new buildings must be more hurricane and earthquake resistant and fully compliant with building codes. She also urged Barbadians to be wary of new construction materials on the market and determine whether they were suitable for the island. The Minister of Foreign Trade also said there may be instances where contractors may have to be retrained. Citing an example, she noted that, “When prefab homes came in a few years ago, some of our contractors went out of business because they did not know how to work on these types of buildings. So if we want Barbadians to take part fully in our rebuilding process, we must re-educate them so they can become familiar with the new techniques”.