WITH hundreds turning up at the government’s “Meet the People” outreach in Bartica with housing concerns, Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan seized the opportunity to allay their fears, by reassuring them that steps are in place to deal with the issue.
He explained that the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) has approached the Guyana Lands and Survey Commission (GLSC) requesting lands for housing developments.
“There’s a challenge relating to housing in Bartica, in that the CH&PA does not have any land in Bartica,” Minister Bulkan said.
“We need new lands. There are State lands here just not belonging to the CH&PA, so we are in discussions with the Guyana Lands and Surveys for an allocation of State lands. So that process is ongoing… to allow for additional housing developments, in addition to the Four Miles and West Indian Housing Schemes,” he added.
Barticians came out in their numbers to the ‘utreach’, and many of them headed straight to the CH&PA booth, in the hope that they can get that much closer to their dream of one day owning their own home. “I came out here today, because it’s about 20- something years I applied for a piece of land and can’t get through,” said 49-year-old Vanis Livan.
“The last time I had an encounter with Housing,” she said, “was 2009 when they had the
‘One Stop Shop’, and they asked me for $250,000. And I didn’t have the money at the time, so I didn’t get the land. So that is how it is until now. It’s a very long time; I was living in ‘The River’ when my husband used to be working at Skull Point, and we used to have to paddle and come here to these meetings. But myself and my friend used to make it our duty to be there.”
Livan was out at the outreach with two of her children, one of whom is Carol Livan, a schoolteacher, who has been waiting some 13 years herself to acquire a piece of land to build. “I applied for a house-lot in 2006, and to date, that has not materialised,” Carol said, adding: “And from what I have heard today, I’m a bit satisfied with the information.”
High rental prices and tight living arrangements are pushing Barticians to be all the more proactive in the pursuit of their own home. They were elated to have the CH&PA come to them instead of having to make the long trip to Georgetown to deal with their issues. “I am really thankful for this outreach, especially in the housing sector,” said Dawn McCulluch, a photographer.
“I am so thankful that ‘Housing’ is up here today,” she said. “It’s a good thing. As a Bartician, I am paying an exorbitant amount of rent.”
A LITTLE MORE PATIENCE
However, with almost all of the CH&PA lands in the Bartica area already allocated, residents in the area would have to exercise just a little more patience as the CH&PA awaits word from the GLSC on when they can get land, and just how much land they can get.
“Currently, Lands and Surveys is working to identify the areas where the lands are available,”explained CH&PA Chief Executive Officer Lelon Saul. “We want lands in an area that is pretty close to the centre of the township, and we would be grateful if we could get about 500 acres available, because we believe that would satisfy the need in the short to medium- term,” he said.
Saul is hoping that those agencies owning State lands in Bartica understand the need for some of the lands to be allocated for housing, as the township’s population is rapidly expanding with its continuous development. “Most of the lands around this township is under the control of GLSC or the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC),” Saul said, “but housing is very critical, so therefore, I would want to believe that the relevant agencies will be making moves to ensure that the needs of the CH&PA is fulfilled by making lands available.”
The booths at the ‘outreach’ opened at just around 11:00hrs, and notwithstanding some early-morning showers, persons were quick to flock the CH&PA’s. And as the day progressed, it was easy to see that many of those heading their way were women, many of them, as Saul explained, being single-mothers.
“At Bartica, what we found,” he said, “is that there is a large amount of single-parent or single- headed household families, most of them headed by women. And in most of the cases, they were of that category.”
Saul noted that given that those making inquiries about housing were not that many, the CH&PA was able to deal with some issues on-the-spot at the ‘outreach’. “We were able to deal with some of the cases. We did some allocation today, but the majority of them we could not have addressed because there is a great demand for low to middle-income, but there is currently none available in Bartica. There are a few cases where persons were seeking extension to payment to house lots allocated to them a while ago, and we also favourably considered those extensions,” Saul said.
Minister with responsibility for Housing, Annette Ferguson also seized the opportunity to interact and speak encouraging words to the large crowd gathered at the ‘Housing’ booth.