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In an attempt to address the backlog of over 70,000 house lot applications currently in the system, the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government, over the next five years, intends to distribute 50,000 house lots, starting with 10,000 this year.
The announcement was made by Senior Minister within the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh as he unveiled a multi-billion dollar budget for the Housing Sector before the National Assembly on Friday.
“Mr. Speaker, Government’s commitment over the next five years is to make available 50,000 house lots across the country. The major partner in this exciting and evolving transformation will be the private sector who, together with Government, will create the incentives and opportunities for affordable housing, for persons to own their own homes. Given our promise to the people of Guyana, we plan to allocate 10,000 house lots, as well as distribute 7,000 land titles across the country in 2021,” Minister told the House in the notable absence of the main opposition – the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC).
Additionally, Government will construct 1,000 homes for low income earners and young professionals. “Additionally, Government has committed to the residents of Region 10 that they can look forward to the construction of 1,000 homes through public–private partnerships, with community involvement in every step of the way. The diaspora will also be engaged in financing housing initiatives and also benefit as remigrant homeowners. Further, a single window approval system for construction permits will soon be reality, considerably reducing the processing time from land allocation to construction,” Dr. Singh said.
He said when the PPP/C Government demitted office in 2015, a total of 22,964 house lots were allocated during its last five years in office, however, only 7,534 house lots were distributed by the APNU+AFC Administration during its five-year period in office. “The slowdown in distribution of house lots under the previous administration was due to a lack of a clear vision and policy for the housing sector,” he posited.
Minister Singh said since its return to Office in August 2020, the PPP/C Administration has executed a number of the “Dream Realised” One Stop Shops, which resulted in the distribution of 413 land titles and 3,600 house lots.
To further support the housing drive, the Government will be removing Value-Added Tax (VAT) from locally produced building and construction materials including sand, stone, concrete blocks, plywood, logs and lumber for affordable housing.
Notably, $6B has been budgeted for the advancement of infrastructure and utility works in new and existing housing areas. Additionally, the sum of $1.5B has been allocated to continue with infrastructure works in the Sophia, Diamond and Parfaite Harmonie housing area.
“In keeping with Government’s commitment of creating and enabling sustainable communities, the boundaries of the programme will be extended to include Victoria on the East Coast of Demerara. To this end, the installation of LED street lamps and the upgrading of recreational facilities will be part of the programme. Further, under the Core Home Support and Home Improvement Subsidy initiative, the Government will be working towards providing subsidies to low-income households and successful applicants will be given a new housing unit at a subsidised cost or materials to improve their homes,” he added.
Housing aside, the Finance Minister said the PPP/C Administration aims to improve the water sector by increasing treated water coverage and access to potable water, reducing non-revenue water, and modernising sanitation facilities across the country.
The Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI), he said, has already prepared a new 5-year strategic plan for the period 2021-2025 in keeping with the government’s mission to provide clean, reliable and affordable water. “Emphasis will be placed on increasing access to treated water coverage to 90 percent, reduction of non-revenue water (NRW), the modernisation of the sanitisation infrastructure network, integrated water resource management and wastewater treatment,” Minister Singh said.
Approximately $4B has been allocated in 2021 to procure equipment and improve and expand the water supply network systems across the country. Guyanese, Dr. Singh said, can expect the drilling of new wells along with the upgrading of photovoltaic systems, storage facilities, distribution networks and service connections across Regions 1, 3, 7, 8 and 9. Further, the upgrading of distribution networks across Regions 8 and 9 will be undertaken.
“To address the issue of non-revenue water Government has made a provision of $275 million, in 2021, for the procurement and installation of 20,000 water meters for Residential and Business Areas across the country. Additionally, $200 million has been allocated to expand the Sophia, Eccles, Covent Garden, Grove, Friendship and Vergenoegen water treatment plants to benefit over 50,000 residents. Further, Government will upgrade the transmission mains between Church to Cummings Streets and Cemetery Road to Mandela Avenue benefiting over 35,000 residents, and has allocated $100 million to procure electromechanical equipment for the rehabilitation of water production facilities,” the Finance Minister detailed. He said at the end of 2020, the Government had expended $2.7B on several projects under the water sector.
Additionally, the Government has budgeted $1.1B for Sanitation – a move that would see the completion of the construction of Cell II at Haags Bosch Sanitary Landfill Site and the upgrading of disposal sites at Rose Hall, Port Kaituma, Belle Vue, Lethem, Lima, Charity, Lusignan and D’Edward. We have also catered for the preparation of temporary locations for waste disposal in Regions 2, 3 and 5.