Beyond low

Grotto no longer considered housing solution for poor, says Symmonds

It was intended to provide housing solutions for low-income Barbadians.

However, the Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) now says it has in its possession concrete proof that at least three quarters of the units in the National Housing Corporation (NHC) complex at the Grotto, St Michael will go to high-income earners.

Speaking at a political meeting in St Michael Central last night, Member of Parliament for St James Central Kerrie Symmonds said the BLP was in possession of documents, which it intends to release at a later date, outlining Government’s plans to rent out 60 of the 80 apartments at the Grotto for $1,500 and upwards monthly to persons earning $5,000 plus.

“Those units were conceived to bring housing resolutions to the poor people of the land. But there is not a citizen of Barbados with an application at the National Housing Corporation that has been told ‘one of those 80 units is for you and your family,’” the Opposition spokesman said.

Also based on the documentation, which the St James Central MP is so far keeping close to his chest, the plan was to name the complex Dalkeith Woods to give it a middle class sounding name”.

He also told the meeting that Government had decided since September of last year, “that they were going to rent out units up at the Grotto for the maximum possible return.

“The plan [is]  . . . that the first 40 of those units going to people who earn between $6,000 and $5,000 a month . . . for people who can pay $1,800 or $1,900 a month in rent.

“The second 20 of those 80 are to go to people who are able to pay $1,500 a month in rent,” said Symmonds, who argued that Government had to charge the high rentals, “because they done pay the man who built it every cent”.

He said that payment to the contractor Mark Maloney amounted to $28 million.

“The units were built at the public’s expense [but] the people who were intended to benefit from it cannot see a day inside,” the Opposition MP stressed.

He also said Government was forking out $9,600 per month for security services at the unoccupied five-building housing complex at the Grotto, which was completed some 18 months ago.

Attempts to reach Minister of Housing Denis Kellman today for comment were unsuccessful.

However, he had suggested to Barbados TODAY back in February that Government may have had to change the original purpose of the Grotto high-rise project, as well as one at Parish Land.

Pressed to say then whether the projects would remain for sale or rental, he had replied: “All of that is being considered. You have to ensure that at the end of the day, you do not increase your deficit; that you find yourself in a position that you can continue to subsidize houses for the masses, which is part of our remit.”

The Grotto project, which started in April 2013, was due for completion in September of the following year. Kellman had also said a decision was pending on how Government planned to make money from that project, as well as on its availability for occupation.

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