Minister says housing agency can't build for poor people only
If the National Housing Corporation (NHC) continues to focus only on providing housing for poor Barbadians it will never get out of its financial hole, Minister of Housing Denis Kellman declared today.
As such, he said, the NHC would have to think outside the box and change the way it operates to slash its “significant deficit” and begin turning a profit.
Kellman told Barbados TODAY that while the layoffs at the corporation last year eased the financial burden somewhat, it had not eliminated the need for assistance from the Treasury.
We have to find ways to reduce this deficit. It is alright to say that you have to help poor people but the only way that we can help poor people at NHC is if we have an income stream that we can help to subsidize. It’s a business . . . We have to recognize that NHC does not only have a social side but there is also a commercial side which is supposed to support that,” he said.
“I look forward to the day that we can create enough activity that we will not have to ask the Minister of Finance for any money . . . The NHC cannot be a corporation and still depend on the Treasury when it has commercial assets out there and stock to be sold.”
Kellman said it was only if the NHC sold land and properties at commercial rates that it could provide subsidized housing for the masses.
“So when you hear people say ‘there should be all subsidized houses’, then we’ll always have a deficit and sooner rather later, when it’s crunch time, you have to put the pressure on the people that you set about to help,” he cautioned.
It is against that background that Kellman disclosed that Government had introduced, on a trial basis, a $500 monthly rental fee at the Lancaster 1, St James housing project for residents who intend to purchase properties but had not yet received funds from lending institutions.
That concept, he told Barbados TODAY, would be widened to include homes at Constant, St George and Parish Land, St Philip.
Once they go to the bank and they have approval for the mortgage, and if they are renting and want access to the property, we will allow them to rent the houses until they have completed the transaction. The rent would be going towards the NHC, it is not rent-to-own,” the minister explained.
Kellman said he was particularly perturbed that some residents were “bad mouthing” that initiative.
“If you think about it, it’s a very brilliant concept and it’s one that the NHC will make money off and the future owner would also [save] money because there’s no way in Barbados you’re going to get one of those houses for less than $1,000 to rent,” he said.
“What we are saying in the ministry is ‘just come and pay us $500’. It allows you to come in, build your cupboards, do your landscaping, save $500 so that when your mortgage [transaction] is complete, you’re already in your house and would be [finished] building out everything.”
Meantime, to help deal with the ongoing challenges at the corporation, the minister urged employees to “step up to the plate”.
“You have to try to make your workers more productive . . . We are [also] looking at how we can have a better relationship with the workers because there is no doubt we have some of the best workers . . . ,” Kellman said.
“If the workers do not work I take full responsibility for it because it’s for me to ensure that they work and it’s also for the management to ensure that the workers work.”