THE present proposed community approach to housing development should be based on past experiences and such projects should have characteristics such as community playgrounds, business centres, health clinics, schools and proper infrastructures and basic services.
Some communities across the country are Tucber Park and the Town Council schemes in Berbice, Henrietta and Suddie Housing Schemes in Essequibo, and Tucville and South Ruimveldt in Georgetown, to name a few. Where Guyana is pursuing a Green Economy there may be other characteristics.
In 2016, the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) had said that it would expend $50B to revamp the housing programme. Recently, Minister Valerie Patterson-Yearwood, who is the minister within the Ministry of Communities with responsibility for Housing, announced that some 350 to 400 new housing units will be constructed across the country next year. In addition to building those housing units in 2019, the ministry will work with the private sector to deliver additional units across the country, she said, adding that houselots will remain available to persons who are desirous of constructing their own homes.
The government, she asserted, continues to move forward with a plan to provide adequate housing by building complete housing units. According to the minister, so far for this year, 202 complete housing units were built, while the construction of an additional 52 will be done by the end of December.
She said that 149 of those units were constructed in Perseverance, East Bank Demerara (EBD), 76 of which were two-bedroom duplexes and 42 two-bedroom elevated units. In addition, 17 units were built at Experiment, Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice), 10 two-bedroom units in Onderneeming, Region Two (Essequibo Coast). Those, she said, were just the testing ground, because those have communities never received housing units.
One of the deficiencies that has to be admitted within recent times in the construction of houses, is that Guyanese are building these with little or no attention paid to our tropical environment and our low-lying coastal plain,which is below sea level. It has become a feature to see houses built for style and not for convenience. In this regard, it is not unusual to see houses here that are more appropriate for temperate environment, like North America and Europe. Such construction places financial burden on the home owner to properly ventilate, necessitating the purchase of fans or air-condition units which increase electricity consumption and cost.
The government may find it useful to look at constructing houses appropriate to the tropical environment and with a “green” economy focus factor in ventilation and energy saving. Alternative energy supply can examine solar energy where panels are installed on the roof, giving persons the option to go fully solar or create hybrid energy (fossil and solar). Or it may be worthwhile to explore the possibility of establishing a solar grid specifically for some communities. Linden is well placed to experiment with alternative energy given its energy bill.
The employment of skills to build these houses allows the government to begin the streamlining of and bringing this category of labour into the formal economy, and consistent with the employment laws. Such compliance will see obligations being honoured to the National Insurance Scheme (NIS), the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), the Occupational Safety and Health Act and so forth.
Waste management can entail testing the viability of moving away from septic tanks to that of building sewage plants. Doing this will bring Guyana into honouring its obligation under the Cartagena Convention in liquid sewage management. The placement of new communities is likely to see some displacement of the natural landscape. When this is being done, it would help to ensure efforts are undertaken to comply with sustainable management of the flora and fauna, and even waterways where they exist.
Guyana is moving into new territory, though it is returning to the value of building communities. Where the green economy is being pursued as the developmental thrust, the possibilities are endless. The new terrain should be tackled, head on, with gusto, not only for the challenges that it will present, but the new frontiers and opportunities for growth and development.