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Too many buildings going to ruin, laments developer

A local real estate official wants Government to find creative ways of putting some of its unoccupied buildings back into operation.

Managing Director of Caribbean Island Properties David Coombes also has some advice for owners of unoccupied private properties who are looking to sell.

The advice is “put them at the right price” and they will be sold instead of waiting for a certain price.

Delivering the latest lunchtime lecture at the Democratic Labour Party’s George Street, Belleville, St Michael headquarters, Coombes said there were simply too many buildings, both Government and privately owned, going to ruins.

“I have seen several Government buildings, especially around the Garrison, that are just running down to ruin,” he said.

The real estate official said a few months ago he wrote Government on behalf of an overseas client who was willing to buy one of the Garrison properties, “fix it up and give it back 20 years later” but he was yet to get a response.

“What I am saying is that there are opportunities where I could put people in Government homes or Government offices or buildings that we can’t afford and that we don’t have need for right now,” said Coombes.

“Find a creative way of putting them into use so that persons can enjoy them for 10, 15, 20, whatever years and then we give it back. What we cannot allow it to do is just sit there and run down. So even if the idea I come up with is not exactly right, tweak it until it is and then get the place working,” he added.

With regard to persons who were holding on to their old buildings in dire need of repair because they were hoping to get a certain price, Coombes said if those properties were “put at the right price”, people would buy them.

“We are such a small island and in such a great location, every little piece should be working, even if it is in agriculture but especially the pieces along the sea, they should be generating revenue,” he said.

“A, the Government needs to be accountable to the population on what they are doing, why they are doing it and what the prices are. And B, the population has to be accountable to make sure that they are supporting the Government in the agreed message and mission statement. We need a clear mission statement on Barbados,” he said.

Coombes said there were several local and international factors affecting the sale of real estate, including global economic conditions, fluctuation of overseas currencies, as well as new developments in the United Kingdom regarding whether the country should exit the European Union – an issue that will be decided by a referendum in June.

“Of course, we have our own economic challenges here in Barbados with our debt burden,” he added.

Coombes said while some properties were selling, though not on the scale before the recession, prospective buyers were more willing to negotiate.

In addition, he said most overseas clients were not willing to buy a property to rent or as a holiday home because they needed the cash flow as they were watching global developments closely.

Coombes also pointed out that since the Government’s retrenchment programme, he had witnessed a number of people not being able to service their mortgages resulting in their houses being placed on the market for sale.

“There is that lack of confidence in the market so we are seeing people not being able to keep their homes. Some of those properties have come back on to the market and they need to be sold and that has [suppressed] the pricing,” he said. (MM)

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