Deputy Speaker of the House Gline Clarke today called on Minister of Housing, Lands and Rural Development George Payne to put a special mortgage facility in place to assist low income Barbadians to own a piece of the rock.
He put forward the idea in Parliament as he joined the debate on a resolution for Government to acquire land in Harrismith, St Philip to carry out housing and tourism development.
Calling for a “good housing policy” to be developed to help in the country’s development, Clarke said Government should seriously consider offering no or very low interest rate loans to incentivise low income Barbadians to build their own home.
“I am saying to you, we need to put in place a rapid response where persons can get loans at no interest and the Government has to do that. The only body can do that is the Government. Investors will not pull their money,” Clarke told his parliamentary colleagues.
Declaring that many people were unable to build a home with their current salaries, Clarke said there were too many working for minimum wages and had children to care for.
He said while many people were relying on the Urban Development Corporation and the Rural Development Corporation, these government departments “cannot do all”.
“Therefore Government need to come up with a programme of fiscal incentives similar to what was done a couple years ago,” Clarke said.
“People were allowed to use the General Workers’ [Housing] Loan Fund to borrow up to $100 000 at very low interest rate.
“I am not sure what is the status of the General Workers’ [Housing] Loan Fund today, but the average worker today cannot get a loan.
“He might go to the credit union and it might take him forever.
“The credit unions do not give loans readily to their members without a struggle, and how much do they get, what about the interest they attract?
“The banks again, are very reluctant to give mortgages as well, and if they do you have to do all these things to get adequate loans.
“I believe the Minister of Housing must put in place facilities for the ordinary Barbadian to acquire a loan at low interest rates.”
He also warned that any development policy should address issues of garbage collection, lighting and the provision of recreational spaces.
Minister of Maritime Affairs Kirk Humphrey cried shame on the commercial banking system for not doing more to assist Barbadians to own a home.
He said despite high liquidity in the banking system “poor people can’t get money to buy a house but they will loan you money to buy a car”.
“We have to make sure that we speak to the banking system, because the truth is that at the end of the day the Government would never be in a position to build as many houses as people need,” said Humphrey.
Stating that people in his constituency asked primarily for jobs and housing, he said efforts should be made to “empower” the private sector to build houses, and make sure that “poor people and middle income people have access to the financing system so they can build and pay for their own house”.
“I believe, given the liquidity in the banking system and given the fact that there are other pressures on people, we have to look at the way we are talking about these mortgages,” he said, as he declared housing is a necessity.
In his contribution, Minister of Youth and Community Empowerment Adrian Forde called for future community developments to have certain features that would impact positively “on every aspect of people’s life”.
Forde said: “I believe that every single housing project should have a community park, a home for the elderly and a recreational area for the elderly, and you must be able to talk about the disabled community.”
He also suggested that every housing development should consist of “an area or nursery for children”.