Minister denies Grotto apartments for sale
The National Housing Corporation’s (NHC) new high-rise apartments at The Grotto, Beckles Road, St Michael are not for sale after all.
Minister of Housing Denis Kellman hinted earlier this year that the 80 units, which were to be rented out to low-income earners, would possibly go on the market for as much as $450,000 each in order to help ease the financial burden on the cash-strapped NHC.
“A lot of people believe that once it is Government that Government should not be able to sell at open market. The only way that we can reduce the deficit at NHC is by doing the same thing,” Kellman told the media after addressing a meeting of the St James North branch of the Democratic Labour Party on January 12.
“In order for NHC to improve its cash flow, the first thing it has to do is to sell the properties and that has been our priority and that’s what we are seeking to do. We are making progress on all sites.
“That is a property that we have to think about it. The cost is of about $450,000 per unit, including land, and in light of the economic situation at NHC we have to be very careful how we approach that . . . It does not make sense having a location like the one we have and not thinking about it,” Kellman added at the time.
Last week another section of the press also quoted the Minister as repeating that the units could be put up for sale, although that report stated that the price was yet to be determined.
But in an interview today with Barbados TODAY, Kellman denied that the apartments were to be sold, claiming any information that suggested otherwise was the “interpretation” of the media.
“I never said that the 80 units at the Grotto were to be sold. That was the interpretation of the reporter. I said that the allocation of the units will soon be done. I never said by sale or rental. There is a lot of potential in the Grotto units. They are located on the outskirts of Bridgetown, aesthetically pleasing to the eye and are in close proximity to some of the best beaches in the island.
“As time changes, one may have to change decisions. Because one has made a decision in the past that does not mean that one must continue with it. The economic times dictate the thinking at the time. One has to consider the cost of constructing the units to arrive at a realistic cost or rental fee for the units,” he said.
The complex, constructed by Preconco Limited and comprising five apartment buildings of 16 units each on four levels, remain unoccupied almost a year after they were completed. Each apartment is 650 square feet.
Also lying empty are the 122 units at the Parish Land Housing Project in St Philip which began in 2010 and were due for completion at the end of 2012.
Kellman told Barbados TODAY that wells were now being dug for the units and that the Environmental Protection Department had conducted an environmental test and “came up with a decision”. He did not disclose what the decision was or when the units would be ready to be occupied.
The units are made up of two and three-bedroom, two-bathroom models on lots ranging from 3,500 to 4,500 square feet. Built under Government’s Starter Homes Policy, these houses were designed to give low-income earners who work for less than $3,000 monthly, an opportunity to purchase a house costing between $70,000 and $100,000.
The Minister of Housing also gave prospective homeowners some hope when he indicated that the houses at Constant, St George would be completed soon.
Construction on the $12 million joint housing project between CLICO Holdings and the state-owned NHC began in 2008, with then Chairman of CLICO Leroy Parris announcing at the ground-breaking ceremony that the venture, which was being financed by his company, would result in the building of 64 homes.
Five years ago then Minister of Housing and Lands Michael Lashley disclosed that while the project was to be completed by February 2009, the NHC had encountered a few snags, particularly in relation to the construction of a sewage treatment plant.
Since taking over the Ministry of Housing, Kellman has come under heavy criticism from Shadow Minister of Housing, Colonel Jeffrey Bostic who has repeatedly charged that many units have been built under his watch, but few have been allocated.
Bostic, who is the parliamentary representative for the City, a constituency known for its poor housing stock, has often called on Government to provide proper housing in such densely populated areas as the Greenfield, Mason Hall Street, Nelson Street and Reid Street.
The opposition parliamentarian has repeatedly charged that tenants occupying the units at Passage Garden Towers now overlook the squalor of Greenfield.