Despite being cash-strapped, the National Housing Corporation (NHC) is committed to fixing all of the issues related to the properties it owns, junior Housing Minister Charles Griffith told Parliament today.
Work had already begun to fix some of those properties in need of repair, he said.
As the House of Assembly moved to vest 39,896 square metres of land at Colleton, St Lucy, in the NHC for housing development, Griffith revealed that Government had already paid out over $1 million to engineers to have them carry out an assessment across the public housing estates.
A further $495,000 to date had been paid for surveys to try to rectify issues affecting the housing units, he said.
But Griffith said all the work could not be done overnight as the state housing agency was hampered by a lack of financial resources.
He declared to fellow lawmakers: “We are cash-strapped and that is not something that is a secret, it is a reality of what is happening at the NHC… and we have inherited it.”
He blamed the Freundel Stuart administration for the “madness” of selling off NHC homes leading to a revenue shortfall.
He added that in 2009, the NHC was managing 4,310 units but by last December that figure dropped to 1,208 units after the previous administration divested ownership to occupants, resulting in a $4.2 million drop in revenue.
He said: “You can understand that with the madness that is attached to the divestment programme, the implications that you are taking in $4.2 million less to still maintain all of the housing units across all of the housing estates that we have.”
Griffith said he had made several site visits to housing estates, as his ministry was now trying to be proactive in finding solutions to fix the issues it was seeing on the ground.
He said: “We have the personnel rearing to go as it relates to fixing those particular problems. An example of this is the electrical upgrade which is going to cost $7401 per unit at these locations and this is something we have to make right as part of the divestment progress.
“We are doing what is necessary. I know maybe in a week’s time that electrical upgrade will happen. We have identified those electricians who will be a part of the process and that will happen very, very soon.
“It is a tall order for the NHC and for the Ministry to deal with this particular issue as it relates to how we treat to this situation going forward…in short order, some of the critical issues will be rectified.
“Resources will come and at some point in time, we will solve the issue that is vexing across the housing estates. It will take time but we have the desire and the will to ensure that all of our tenants across the housing estates are resting in a certain degree of comfort.”
He said overcrowding was one of the major problems facing residents in the housing estates.
The Minister said one of the solutions identified by the NHC was to provide opportunities for tenants to buy land outside of the urban corridors.
He also said the fact some of the units were over 50 years old made it extremely difficult for those buildings to be retrofitted and brought to modern day standards.
In some of the units, he said, there were no ring beams present.