Fresh urban agenda mooted

Cummins puts high-rise housing solutions on the table

Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins says Barbados is in need of “a new urban agenda”.

Economist and co-chair of the National Habitat Committee, Jeremy Stephen (left), and Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins.
Economist and co-chair of the National Habitat Committee, Jeremy Stephen (left), and Chief Town Planner Mark Cummins.

He has also suggested that the private sector should get involved in high-rise housing solutions that could accommodate between 20 and 40 tenants.

Cummins, who is also co-chair of the National Habitat Committee, was speaking to reporters following the official opening of the National Consultation On Housing and Sustainable Urban Development at the Accra Beach Hotel And Spa yesterday.

The new agenda, he said, would have to take a number of factors into consideration, including the fact that Bridgetown was one of three Caribbean cities selected as part of the Inter-American Development Bank’s Emerging And Sustainable Cities Initiative.

“Secondly, the Physical Development Plan is about to be amended. Very shortly a contract is going to be awarded. And thirdly, we now morph into Habitat III, which seeks to look at the whole concept of housing and sustainable urban development,” explained Cummins.

Following the two-day consultation –– out of which is expected to come a national report and plan of action for the next two decades –– there will be a number of nightly town hall meetings over the next six weeks.

The Habitat III Urban Dialogue is a precursor to the United Nation’s Conference On Housing And Sustainable Urban Development in Quito, Ecuador, in October next year.

The Habitat III project will seek to reintergrate derelict and abandoned properties back into the housing stock to provide meaningful housing solutions.
The Habitat III project will seek to reintergrate derelict and abandoned properties back into the housing stock to provide meaningful housing solutions.

Cummins revealed that between 2000 and 2010 approximately 11,000 new housing units were built in Barbados.

And based on the 2010 census, he said there were just over 13,000 unoccupied buildings across the island, which the committee would be seeking to bring back into the housing stock over the two decades.

This project, he said, was in the embryonic stage, adding that there could be tremendous benefits to the island, including the provision of a number of jobs for artisans and those in construction.

“One of the key concepts as we move into Habitat III will be how do we get those derelict and abandoned properties back into the housing stock to provide meaningful housing solutions,” said Cummins, adding that sustainable development was also critical to the “new urban agenda”.

Revealing that there were “numerous applications” for apartments in the urban corridor, Cummins said they were mainly for three, four, five or six-apartment buildings.

“I am not aware of any building that would provide a housing solution at the apartment level for 20, 30 or 40 units. Regrettably that has been left to the National Housing Corporation,” said Cummins.

“When I say regrettably I do not mean that the National Housing Corporation is not competent to provide that quality and level of housing. It is regrettable that the private sector has never taken on that as a responsibility. And it may be rooted in an economic factor whereby the private sector does not see itself as a renter of housing. It does not see itself as a landlord. It sees itself as a vendor,” said Cummins.

However, going forward, he said that was something the private sector should consider, given the notion the younger generation was more willing to live at floor levels above four and five.

marlonmadden@barbadostoday.bb

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