Poor people stand to suffer from an amendment to planning regulations that require homeowners to vacate their homes while major renovations are taking place, according to former social transformation minister Hamilton Lashley.
The social welfare advocate has urged the government to review how the amendment will affect poorer members of society, particularly those living on tenantry land.
He told Barbados TODAY that the changes to the planning regulations should not even be introduced at this time when Barbados is occupied fighting the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Lashley said: “To ask poor people to more or less be exposed to the rudiments of having to move out, then to move back in, when traditionally, Barbadians are accustomed to building on from the back of the house and covering it up until the house is completed.
“Then, particular attention must be paid to the COVID situation as it is because then particularly the poor person might be exposed more than normal to the COVID-19 pandemic and you have to protect them.”
According to a section of the Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill, which was laid, debated and passed in the House of Assembly on June 2, homeowners must now obtain an Occupancy Certificate from Government’s Planning Department before they can occupy their home after renovation work has been completed.
But a public outcry on social media about the new rules prompted Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs Marsha Caddle to announce a delay in implementation of some aspects of the new law to allow for them to be explained to the public.
But Lashley insisted that the decision should be reversed at this time.
He said: “Now is not the right time to implement it because of prevailing and environmental circumstances, and also the pervading social conditions that exist at this time that would make implanting a system like that at this time prohibited. I certainly would not recommend it.
“You could imagine a grandparent that is building piece by piece as we are accustomed to, have to move out and have to move back in, making them susceptible to many hazards at this time. This is a time for protective policy initiation rather than one that would cause extenuating stress on the poor class of the Barbadian society.”
The ex-parliamentarian also suggested that the National Assistance Board (NAB) should extend the social protection and safety net further to encapsulate elderly citizens, particularly those living alone.
He explained that as a matter of proficiency and assisting the elderly during the pandemic, Government must consider establishing a rapid response repair unit through the National Assistance Board (NAB) to assist the vulnerable members of society with “changing a board or a few windows that might be damaged as a result of any other circumstance”.
Said Lashley: “Those items that are immediately needed by the poor should be made available. All it takes is a container and placing it on the property of the National Assistance Board and get somebody to administer, get a few carpenters that could easily change a lock on a door, could replace a window, and could replace a damaged window.
“My fear is that under the present system of the Urban Development Commission and Rural Development Commission that these people would have to wait for these minor repairs. We are in a COVID period and the adjustments must be made for these older persons across Barbados.”
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