From trash to treasure

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The first low-income house that was constructed in Amelia’s Ward, Linden

–Linden bauxite overburden being used for low-income homes

Scores of low-income earners in the mining town of Linden can now dream of owning a decent home within their financial reach, with the official launching of the Linden Enterprise Network (LEN) Low-Income Housing Project.

What is special about this project is that all of the materials used to construct the two-bedroom houses were sourced in Linden, and that the main material, which is the interlocking blocks, is manufactured from the bauxite overburden which was previously discarded as waste material.

The launch of the Low-Income Housing Project took place on Friday at the site of the first house that was constructed, which has already been sold. It costs $3.5 M, which is a comparative decrease in price of $7M, according to LEN Chairman, Orrin Gordon. The 30 x 20-ft house also took 40 days to construct, whereas, according to the contractor, it normally takes 28 days. But because of some hiccups, it took a bit longer this time around.
The house features two bedrooms, a washroom area, a living room, dining space and a kitchen.

Owner of Linden Bricks, Mr Robert Cameron said that houses built with bauxite blocks have several benefits. Because the bricks can automatically interlock, he said, houses are built faster, thereby cutting costs by as much as 20 per cent, since most of the other materials are not needed to plaster the blocks.

The houses are also cooler, since the bricks are very dense, thus heat takes a longer time to penetrate them. They are also sound and bullet-proof.
There is also no need to paint, since the brickwork already has a natural artistic look to it, which is also a means of economising.

At the simple ceremony, regional officials, including Mayor of Linden Waneka Arindell and Regional Chairman Rennis Morian were present. More noteworthy, though, was the presence of scores of low-income earners that will be benefiting from the project in the near future.

Many, the majority of whom were single mothers, were elated that the opportunity has finally arisen where they can own their own home via a mortgage which they can prequalify for, as well as afford to pay from their meagre salaries. Most of these women were turned away from lending institutions because they did not meet the requirements for a mortgage, hence their dreams of owning a home remained dim.

COMMENDATION
LEN’s ingenuity to partner with Linden Bricks, the company that manufactures the bauxite blocks, was commended by all present. Mayor Arindell said that with the amount of bauxite overburden available in the town after more than a century of bauxite mining, there is enough raw material to have bricks manufactured for not only Linden but the entire Guyana.

Noting that this will be in keeping with the government’s vision for sustainable development towns through innovative projects, Arrindell urged the financial lending institutions to continue embracing the LEN initiative by providing loans for similar projects.
The contractors related to the audience that the house is a manifestation of community collaboration. “This project shows a complete community commitment,” the contractor said. “I’m grateful for the interest that is being showed; it is selling out like hot cakes; it is moving like wild fire.”

Representing Minister of Communities with responsibility for Housing, Valarie Yearwood, was her technical advisor, Remington Nelson. In delivering the minister’s speech, Nelson posited that Linden has a huge housing deficit, and the people that are mostly affected are those in the lower-income bracket, moreso public servants, because of not being able to qualify at the commercial banks. Therefore LEN’s Low Income Project is a welcoming contribution to the government’s efforts to provide affordable housing for all. LEN would have expressed innovation with utilising the bauxite overburden.

“The overburden is waste is of no value, but it has been said, ‘What is one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’,” Nelson posited.

Len’s ingenuity was also commended. “In this project, we see ingenuity in finding ways to cut costs: We see ingenuity in finding a way to reduce the construction time; we see ingenuity at work in finding uses for what was essentially waste material… The project is testament to the ingenuity that resides here among Lindeners. All of Linden should be proud of this.”

Nelson said while Lindeners’ problems might be great, this LEN Project shows hope for a brighter tomorrow, and therefore the low-income earners should be optimistic that through this, their needs will be met.

INSPIRATION
“Let this project stand as a beacon of inspiration of what can be accomplished when, instead of looking to someone else to solve your problem, you ask yourself, ‘What do I have in my possession?’ Let it inspire you to, after looking up in prayer, look down and look around and come up with workable solutions,” Nelson posited.

Over 80 residents of Linden within weeks are already on LEN’s list to own these homes. Priority is being given to those already in possession of their lands. Gordon firmly posited that the mortgage should be around $15, 000 per month.

Onika Schredar, who hopes to own one of the homes, said the finished product is more than she expected. “I was here before it was finished,” she said, “but now that it is finished, it is even more beautiful than I imagined. I like the natural look, and it has reasonable space. I like the tiling and so in the bathroom, and I like how they set it up to show that every little thing can hold in it.”

Schredar is a janitor, and currently lives in the bottom flat of one of her relatives’ family property. She really dreams of owning her own home. and is happy that opportunity has finally knocked on her door.