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On the morning of Monday December 5, 2022, residents in the squatting area of Success, E.C.D, and the entire Guyana went into a state of shock and sadness on learning that a young couple was electrocuted. Their eleven-year-old daughter is now an orphan. I would like to proffer my commiseration to the daughter, bereaved relatives and friends. Our people ought not to be living under such conditions. Because of the failed system in the allocation of lands, many people have resorted to “squatting”, their only affordable option. Meeting the housing needs for the poor should be a priority of any caring Government.
Editor, The Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA) was established in 1948, with a clear mandate to provide housing for the “working class.” Over the years, to be exact, twenty-three (23) years, pre-May 2015, the Authority strayed from its lawful mandate and the PPP/C government provided housing opportunities for middle and high income earners. Huge swathes of land were sold to “friendly developers” for the construction of houses for those who could afford mortgages. The poor and working class, whose earnings excluded them from the opportunity to obtain mortgages, were ignored. The Sugar Welfare Fund, however, made provision for sugar workers and provided housing, with infrastructure, for them in Enterprise, E.C.D and elsewhere.
Credit must be given to Guyana’s first President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, the late L.F.S Burnham, whose policy on “feed, clothe and house the nation in 1976,” were indeed to make the “small man the real man.” Many institutions such as the mortgage finance bank, cooperative bank, agriculture bank, to name a few were established by this great visionary leader, to help the poor and powerless. Many of these institutions became non-functional during the unconscionable and unscrupulous PPP/C government’s tenure during 1992 – 2015.
The PNC Government’s policy on housing was encouraged through “self-help” and rent-to-own. That is how many housing schemes, such as East, West, North and South Ruimveldt, Laing Avenue, Tucville, Shirley Field-Ridley Square, Roxanne Burnham, Castello, West La Penitence, North East La Penitence, Guyhoc, Lamaha Park, Campbellville Housing Scheme, Tucber, New Amsterdam, Wismar, Linden to name a few, were developed and populated. All these housing schemes, were well outfitted with the basic infrastructure that any community would need. They still remain a legacy of L.F.S Burnham, which the PPPC Government can never and will never be able to match.
The Coalition Government inherited approximately eight thousand (8000) squatters, on record, from the PPP/C in May 2015. President Granger’s vision was for communities to be built, to “provide a roof over each head,” not to allocate house lots in pastures without infrastructure and access to social amenities.
Yes, we had started the process of addressing the perennial problem of “squatting” and the shanty town appearance of many geographic spaces. Consultations were held with representatives from IADB, Habitat for Humanity, banking institutions and credit unions, regarding funding for affordable housing for working class citizens, many of whom were in the CHPA database since 1992. I also recall the Board of Directors and senior staffers of CHPA, under the Coalition Government, discussing several options towards affordable housing. Options such as “sweat equity, rent to own,” CHPA building concrete duplexes and low income elevated one flat 2-bedroom buildings, and allowing persons to pay a monthly mortgage to CHPA, to name a few, were being actively considered.
Pre-May 2015, the PPP/C’s housing Policy was allocating “bush lots” and calling them “house lots” without the basic amenities. In many instances mortgages were acquired and houses built but the infrastructure was built long after residents moved in. Editor, I encourage you to visit housing schemes such as La Parafaite Harmonie, Tuschen, Providence to see the state of their infrastructure, which has led to poor occupancy rates and endless stress for homeowners. The Coalition inherited these problems and sought to provide some measure of relief.
The only well-developed housing areas under the PPP are Pradoville 1 and 2, These were developed with funds from our national coffers for the benefit of the elite. They have excellent roads, drainage, water supply and are well maintained while the poor are forced to endure unsafe and insanitary living conditions.
Now that the PPP/C regime is back in office, the work of CHPA is once more in disarray. I say that to say Editor, rather than seeking to build communities with infrastructure in place CHPA is once again making lands available for developers catering to the middle and high income earners. There is no policy or plan for low-income earners who do not quality for mortgages. It is time for the CHPA/PPPC regime to lay before the National Assembly, a green or white paper focusing on its mandate, providing housing for the working class. Low income Guyanese deserve nothing less than the best from our resources. It is their fundamental and Constitutional Rights, to be properly housed.
As I conclude Editor, I am recommending that the PPP/C regime, collaborate with the Ministry of Finance to establish a plan which facilitates CHPA building rent-to-own low income houses, single and duplex, and or enter into mortgage agreements which allow persons to pay CHPA a monthly mortgage, without a down payment. Then and only then will communities be developed for safe and decent housing for low-income persons. Let them use some of our oil resources to provide housing for the poor GUYANESE.
Member of Parliament