Government backbencher Trevor Prescod is accusing some private contractors engaged in the government’s housing programme of building “pens” for low-income earners in this country.
Speaking in the Lower House earlier today on the government’s plan to construct 10 000 houses across the island, the MP for St. Michael East claimed that some of the houses are too small for families to comfortably live in, and urged Minister of Housing Dwight Sutherland to look into the matter.
“They also are giving housing contracts to contractors who are building pens for poor people. In order to make things look good and to say ‘we are producing units’ pens are being constructed for poor people across Barbados. Adequate facilities are required! I don’t want to hear that this contractor is prepared to do the work at this specific price, but then the facilities and the size and the space between a bedroom and a drawing room is equivalent to any pen in this country,” he said in the land acquisition debate.
His comments led to Minister Sutherland rising to his feet to give the assurance that “this government is not building pens for the people of this country.
“We are building proper housing with recognized materials that are bought and are used for building housing in this country and to the necessary engineering standards in this country,” he added and asked for Prescod’s comment to be struck from the Parliamentary records.
But the veteran MP however remained adamant on the matter, stating “We have two ministers responsible for construction and I will take (Sutherland) on a journey and show him the houses that I am speaking about, built by the private sector. “Do not attempt to make a distinction between a unit that is not properly built as a form of human habitat and what is being built for a chicken, because people in the private sector can build them at the cheapest cost and limited space,” he continued.
Stating that he was not anti-private sector, a passionate Prescod said that while the focus of the state is to provide sustainable housing for marginalized people, the private sector however seeks to get maximum profit from their investment. He questioned the government’s decision to shift the National Housing Corporation’s responsibility from creating such housing solutions to the private sector and urged the government to “pull back the housing policy, centralize it some more in the state and if anything, the private sector will be included.” Claiming that too many small contractors are complaining that they are getting very little work from the government’s massive 10 000 homes project, Prescod further questioned how the ministry is seeking to complete this programme, when it has not yet finished repairing all of the homes damaged in Hurricane Elsa two years ago.
Minister Sutherland told Parliament Tuesday that the homes would be completed by the end of May.