A decade of neglect under the previous Democratic Labour Party administration has left the National Housing Corporation in a perilous state.
This was the general consensus as the House of Assembly looked at the state of housing in Barbados during a debate in Parliament on a resolution vesting land in the statutory corporation at Chancery Lane in Christ Church for housing purposes.
Member of Parliament for St Andrew and Minister of Housing George Payne said, “What we have seen in the last ten years is a reversal of what we were trying to accomplish between 1994 and 2008. When we acquired land for housing solutions, we were accused of starting a ‘land bank’. However, the idea behind it was to ensure people could choose where they wanted to build. People also had access to loans via the Housing Credit Fund and the General Workers Loan Fund for low-income housing, and we had also facilitated the 100% mortgage programme.”
The Minister said under the DLP, $32 million was taken from the Housing Credit Fund to pay the construction firm assigned to the Grotto apartment complex on Beckles Road, while the NHC lost money on a number of other housing projects.
Citing examples, Payne said, “The NHC lost $4 million on the first housing development at Lancaster in St. James, where we built 33 houses. Phase 2 at Lancaster lost $1 million; we lost half a million dollars at Parish Land, and at Constant, which we just finished, the cost per house is $270,000 but houses were sold at $100,000.”
During the debate, it was mentioned that some 30,000 people had applied to the NHC for houses. Government backbencher and MP for St. Michael West Central, Ian Gooding-Edghill, said, “People go to the NHC because they see it as a place of ‘hope’ that can answer their housing needs, but because of recent practices, the corporation does not have the resources to continue with its housing programmes”.
He suggested a new approach to low-income housing. “We need to utilize other financial solutions to enable people to purchase housing units. Those who cannot afford a $200,000 home would go to the NHC for support, and in terms of repayment, they can make a salary deduction. Traditionally these housing solutions have targeted younger people, but we should also consider older people who have been paying rent all their lives. I have always maintained that paying a mortgage is more advantageous than paying rent, and mortgage rates are fixed, whereas a landlord can increase the rent every year if he so desires.”