The ambitious housing drive of the Ministry of Housing and Water aims to meet housing needs of citizens while simultaneously advancing necessary infrastructural development.
This is according to a statement from the Ministry in response to a letter penned by the former minister with responsibility for Housing and present opposition parliamentarian Annette Ferguson.
In her letter to the editor, published in the Stabroek News on August 14, Ferguson critiqued the government’s accomplishments in the housing sector during its first year in office.
Commenting on the government’s housing plan, she contended, “… it shows that a foundation was set and left behind by the APNU+AFC government.
But, according to the statement from the housing ministry, only three housing schemes- at Peter’s Hall, Prospect Track ‘E’ and Providence 125- were developed under the previous administration.
According to the ministry, also, the allocations in other schemes mentioned by the former minister were designed and developed prior to 2015. That is, when the current administration was in office previously.
Ferguson, in her letter, also stated that the APNU+AFC government secured a combined total of 409 acres of land for house lot allocation in Lethem, Kwakwani, Amelia’s Ward and Wisroc.
“This is far from the truth,” the housing ministry’s statement noted.
It was explained that in Kwakwani, the incumbent administration that the land which was only identified, was unfit for housing. As such, a process to secure new and suitable lands to fulfill the housing need for persons in that area was initiated.
Additionally, it was stated that lands in Wisroc, Lethem and Amelia’s Ward were never vested to the ministry. The ownership for lands in Lethem and Amelia’s Ward, the ministry said, were still questionable up until late 2020.
Janelle Small, receiving her land title from Minister of Housing and Water, Collin Croal on Tuesday
And, it was clarified that while some allocations were done under the previous administration in Amelia’s Ward, those allocations were done from open lands that were in the existing scheme and in some instances, there remains issue with the ownership.
The ministry also debunked the former minister’s assertion that 21 new housing areas were developed under the former administration.
“The Guyanese people know that Recht-Door-Zee and Onderneeming schemes on the West Bank of Demerara were developed under the then Housing Minister, now President H.E. Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali,” the statement related.
In Recht-Door-Zee, it was noted that the former administration converted a site which was set aside for a burial ground into house lots and allocated them. The lands allocated at Onderneeming were also open lands that were already developed since the commencement of the scheme.
In the Perseverance Housing Scheme, too, which the former minister took credit for, the ministry said that it was a former PPP/C administration that established that scheme with the ‘1000 homes’ Project.
“That scheme was conceptualized and successfully delivered by the then Minister and current President, H.E. Dr. Mohamed Irfaan Ali,” the ministry said.
The ministry also noted that in a number of other areas mentioned, the government is now trying to address the issue of home ownership.
Importantly, too, it was noted that the schemes developed lacked the basic infrastructure.
“… in fact they were all large open lands with heavy vegetation but are now being developed under the Ministry’s 2021 budget and work program,” the ministry said.
It added, “The allocations which Ferguson referred to in her letter were a political gimmick in the lead up to 2020 election as these allocations were done in January and February 2020. In most of these areas, no designs nor surveys were done, they were all virgin lands for which the Ministry had no jurisdiction over.”
Already, the statement related that Minister of Housing and Water Collin Croal went back to the national assembly for a supplementary budget to fast track works in the 21 housing schemes, as part of efforts to intensify the government’s housing drive.
Altogether the Ministry will spend $13 billion to bring these 21 areas, which the former minister wrote about, to the desired state for persons to occupy.
It was noted that infrastructural works will be done for house lot allocations in the following areas: Anna Catherina, Cornelia’s Ida, Edinburg, Meten-Meer-Zorg and Stewartville (Region Three); Mon Repos, Vigilance, Bladen Hall, Strathspey, La Bonne Intention, Cummings Lodge, Great Diamond, Little Diamond, Prospect, Providence (Region Four); and Experiment, Williamsburg, Hampshire, No. 79 Village, No. 75 Village and Ordnance/Fortlands (Region Five and Six).
Additionally, it was related that the construction of almost 500 housing units began in under one year.
This includes 40 united in Amelia’s Ward, Linden; 100 in Prospect, East Bank Demerara and 140 in Cummings Lodge, Georgetown for low-income earners. Another 200 young professional homes in Providence and Prospect, East Bank Demerara.
“All together this will complement the President’s plan for the construction of 1000 houses. Under this housing program almost $2 billion is being expended.
“This is in keeping with the government’s manifesto promise of providing homes for youths and low-income earners, as Ms. Ferguson is au fait with,” the ministry said too.
Importantly, the ministry said that the units are being built on serviced house lots. And, it was noted that the requisite infrastructural works- such as the construction and upgrading of access roads, bridges and culverts, drainage and irrigation systems and access to basic utilities such as water and electricity- are being done.
All areas are also designed to include zoning for commercial, residential and recreational spaces, as part of a sustainable housing development plan.
“The demand for lands remains at an all-time high and the Ministry is working with a strategic plan to meet this demand while simultaneously executing infrastructure development works in new and existing housing schemes throughout the country,” the ministry said.
These are all part of the ministry’s flagship program “Dream Realised” which aims to deliver 50,000 house lots by 2025.