Govt’s HELP programme not helped by unoccupied houses

The high number of unoccupied houses across Barbados have almost doubled in the past decade, negatively impacting Government’s efforts to expand its housing programme, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said Friday.

Speaking at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre where the process to amend the Physical Development Plan was launched, Stuart disclosed that such buildings had jumped from nine per cent in 2000 to 17 per cent  ten years later.

This, he said was hurting the administration’s Housing Every Last Person (HELP) programme.

“This is the trend island wide. For example, for the parish of St Michael, the rate was 6.6 per cent in 2000 and 11.2 per cent in 2010,” he announced, adding that this situation could not be ignored.

Stuart said the relevant Government agencies were establishing clear procedures for working with property owners in order to ensure that these properties could  be used to provide housing for Barbadians, “without doing any violence to property rights”.

“This action will assist the Government in achieving its objective of housing every last person,” he stressed.

The Government leader also said the Physical Development Plan should also satisfy a number of factors, including whether balanced growth was possible under the current plan, whether balanced growth was possible, whether urban growth patterns ought to change and the negative effects of chronic non-communicable diseases.

He also wanted to know if, through the plan, Barbadians could  be encouraged to make the necessary adjustments and improvements to their lifestyles.

Stuart told stakeholders that after the country is notified where the draft plan can be accessed and inspected, those who want to object or submit representations would have 28 days to do so.

“Once these have been received, I shall then appoint a Commissioner under the Commissions of Enquiry Act to hold a public enquiry and to submit a report to me,” he said, adding he expected to appoint the commissioner by July.

The Prime Minister also promised to be accessible for open dialogue with any individual or organization, including members of his Cabinet, prior to the approval.

He said the plan would be taken to Parliament soon after it receives Cabinet approval.

“When parliamentary approval is given, the date for the operationalization of the plan will be determined and will be published in the Official Gazette and at least one daily newspaper.”

Stuart assured that while the current plan had taken five years from finalization to approval by Parliament, it was his intention to shorten the time on this occasion.

“I have been given the assurance that the draft final plan will be on my desk by the middle of this year. This document reflects the feedback and input from the public during the consultation exercise. Once I have perused the document and I’m satisfied it is a fair and accurate reflection of the interests of all Barbadians . . . I will give the green light for the formal public enquiry to proceed,” he added

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