Parliament removes hurdle to allow transfer of housing units
Parliament today cleared “a significant hurdle” in its move to transfer ownership of National Housing Corporation (NHC) units to tenants who have been paying rent for at least 20 years.
The major step came with the passing of a resolution to vest 4.6 acres of land at Rosemont, Deacons Road, Black Rock, St Michael in the NHC.
Minister of Housing and Lands Denis Kellman, who introduced the resolution in the House of Assembly, said that in this particular instance, 69 households would benefit. However, he said, this was only part of a wider plan as occupants of a total of 3,885 units across the island would fall under the initiative.
“When they get ownership they are getting ownership without having liability which allows them the opportunity to take their conveyances to the bank and empower their other family [members],” Kellman said.
The St Lucy MP acknowledged and apologized for the delay in the transfer of ownership to Rosemont residents, but explained that several issues had to be addressed.
Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler, in whose St Michael North West constituency the Rosemont units fall, explained that among the challenges were illegal extensions on some homes, over $30 million in electrical upgrades for units, and the process of determining the rightful beneficiaries.
Another problem, he pointed out, as was the case in Rosemont, some of the lands on which the NHC had constructed homes several years ago had not been properly vested in the corporation.
“A man cannot give what he does not have and the NHC could not properly convey these units to people and the land on which they are situated . . . Rosemont as well as parts of Deacons Farm, and I believe also Ferniehurst, were not properly vested in the National Housing Corporation to permit for the transfer of title and for the conveyance of the lots and that is the principal reason why we are here.
“I am happy and proud today to say that that paperwork is being completed now,” Sinckler said apologizing to his constituents for the long wait.
He added that the passing of the resolution would clear “a significant hurdle” in conveying the properties to deserving NHC tenants.
Sinckler also used the opportunity to give the assurance that his Ministry, through the Public Investment Unit, would work with the Ministry of Housing to ensure the necessary resources were provided so there was no further delay on Government’s end.
Christ Church South MP John Boyce, in supporting the resolution, explained that the DLP administration could not ignore the regulatory obligations that had to be met to legally make the transfers.
“We are not about creating a shanty town. We want to create something which persons can properly access . . . and which our lending institutions would be able to work with. Other than that we really would have achieved nothing,” he said.
“We all know some of the realities that exist in these housing communities, where common services have never been properly separated . . . So you would have a well, for instance, being dug and then all the units are piped up to this one well. Similarly, electrical supply and so on are not distinguishable. So we have to sort these issues out beyond just a simple conveyance, so owners would have that very important independence.”
Meantime, St Michael West Central MP James Paul suggested that consideration be given to retaining some NHC units for special purposes, such as using them as “transitional houses” for families who were displaced.
While members of the Opposition were not present to contribute to the debate, Kellman, Sinckler, Boyce and Christ Church East MP Dr Denis Lowe all alluded to the Barbados Labour Party’s (BLP) previous resistance to the policy of handing over NHC units to tenants free of charge.
They juxtaposed the current administration’s housing policy to that of the BLP which, when the DLP came to office, was in the midst of a move to collect payment from tenants.