Some former directors of the Urban Development Commission (UDC) are taking umbrage with recent suggestions by Prime Minister Mia Mottley that the state-owned housing assistance organisation took over properties from vulnerable Barbadians.
In fact, these members made it clear that they “resent any implication that calls into question their integrity, character and professionalism in the conduct and execution of their duties.”
During an address at Golden Square in Bridgetown for this year’s annual Day of National Significance celebration, Mottley promised that her administration was moving swiftly to reverse some decisions made under the last political administration, which left over 500 urban residents without titles to their houses and lands.
But according to one longstanding member of the former board, who spoke to Barbados TODAY on condition of anonymity and on behalf of colleagues, the accusation “made absolutely no sense”.
“I want to give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt because I believe she was misinformed. Based on what we saw in the video, it appeared as though the UDC was repairing the homes of indigent persons and then ended up owning these houses. The suggestion that the last administration, and by extension the board, did something wrong to these poor persons that came for assistance and she [Mottley] now has to hand back property to these persons, is totally inaccurate,” the source contended.
In a staunch defence of the UDC’s record, the former board member claimed: “Even though some clients owned the land, the majority of houses will be on lands that UDC clients are renting or have been given permission to occupy via some other agreed-to arrangements. So the notion of returning title deeds to chattel houses that the UDC repaired for clients is shocking. There is no legitimate facility, through which the UDC could have acquired these houses within the policy guidelines or even the lawful capacity of the UDC. State acquisition of houses that Miss Mottley said were either fixed or repaired, never happened under the UDC boards that she referenced.”
The source argued that the board which was in place prior to the Barbados Labour Party’s (BLP) 2018 general election win, followed the same policies of successive administrations, and added that the only circumstances under which the UDC would claim control of a home, were in cases where it was totally rebuilt.
“The only property that you hand over to a person through UDC or RDC (Rural Development Commission) is a new house that is built to replace the person’s old one. If the Government builds a new structure, then that physical structure now belongs to the Government. The Government would have a life certificate or life licence where the person can live in the property for up to a maximum of ten years and after that period you hand over the control to them by way of a transfer,” the source said, noting that they were fearful of the impression that the public may now have of them.
The source further lamented: “If the person dies, then there is also a methodology whereby they would have put down some person’s name whom they wanted to benefit. We never took interest in houses that we simply repaired unless it is a case where it started as repairs but mid-way we realised that the damage was worse than we thought and offered the person the option of a new home. UDC does full maintenance of all of the houses that they build.”