Grotto investment must pay off
In the face of strong Opposition criticism, Minister of Housing and Lands Denis Kellman is adamant that it would be foolhardy for Government to treat the new high-rise apartments at The Grotto, St Michael as any “normal development”.
In fact, if Kellman gets his way, none of the 80 units at The Grotto will be sold at any discount rate.
“As Minister of Housing and Lands I will find it difficult to treat The Grotto as any normal housing development. As I said before, The Grotto has to play a role in ensuring that the Minister of Finance has resources.
“[And] I have to ensure that [The]Grotto creates enough revenue or enough cash to help the Minister of Finance and that it is not a negative investment; that it is either equal [to] or greater than [the investment],” he told a political meeting in his rural constituency on Sunday.
“I am not going to operate on a discount. That is me. [However], if the Cabinet decides that is what they want then that is what I will institute because I serve at the pleasure of the Cabinet and the Prime Minister of this country,” he added.
The Opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) has taken issue with the fact that the project, which was originally conceived to provide housing for poor Barbadians, has now been priced out of their reach.
BLP spokesman Kerrie Symmonds has further revealed, based on documentation, which he said the BLP now has in its possession, that Government now plans to rent the majority of the units to high income earners.
“The plan [is] that the first 40 of those units [are] going to people who earn between $6,000 and $5,000 a month . . . [and] 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”.
Addressing Sunday night’s meeting Kellman neither confirmed nor denied that this was the case. The housing minister, who had earlier told members of the media that the National Housing Corporation’s (NHC’s) new high-rise apartments could be sold on the open market for as much as $450,000 each, did stress however that his intention was to ensure that the housing development created “enough cash” to support the Ministry of Finance.
In response to criticisms, Kellman also made it clear that he would continue with the development of existing housing units before introducing new ones, saying “I would have had to be a fool as a minister to stop projects . . . and say, ‘let us go build new houses’”.
Without going into details, the St Lucy MP told party supporters that two housing developments would be coming to St Lucy – one in Lowlands and the other in Colleton.
“And I hope I get the news I am looking for [Monday] when I have my management meeting to hear that the coordinates have been put in place and that they are ready to complete the acquisition here at Lowlands. I have also said to them let us get on with Colleton, because NHC is money starved and Colleton offers the opportunity to help solve that problem,” he said.
The St Lucy MP, who still believes the country is in need of another airport and seaport, also disclosed that the Ministry of Education was in the process of examining the possibility of establishing “an agriculture college” in the north of the island.