…President to establish National Squatter Resettlement Commission
…blames ex-housing minister, Ali, for poor condition of Plastic City, other unregularised areas
PLEDGING to eradicate squatting in Guyana, President David Granger said once re-elected, his administration will establish a National Squatter Resettlement Commission to provide adequate land and housing for those currently living in ‘slums’.
“On the 15th March, I will set up a National Squatter Resettlement Commission under the Ministry of Communities. We are going to make squatter settlement history,” the Head of State told thousands of A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) supporters on Friday, during an elections rally at the Leonora Athletics Stadium in Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara).
‘Plastic City’ is among squatting settlements that would be dismantled, but not before adequate systems are put in place to ensure squatters are relocated to residential communities. Located at Vreed-en-Hoop, Seat of Administration of Region Three, ‘Plastic City’ lacks basic amenities such as potable water, electricity and proper sanitary blocks. In fact, makeshift houses there are more often than not surrounded by stagnant water, resulting in insect infestation such as mosquitos. For the President, it is “an abscess; a sore; a sickness” that must be addressed.
“By the time the APNU+AFC Government finishes its next tour of duty, there will be no ‘Plastic City’ in Region Three,” President Granger said as he pointed to the creation of the National Squatter Resettlement Commission.
He explained that his administration will use funds from the National Treasury to eliminate squatting in the country. “Over the last 23 years, 150 squatting settlements rose like ‘jumbie umbrellas’ all over this country, [but the] APNU+AFC will put an end to it. I will set up a commission on the 15th March to make sure every Guyanese has a roof over his head,” President Granger said, as his supporters, dressed in the colours of the Coalition, waved their flags in affirmation. He assured them all that revenues stemming from the Oil-and-Gas Industry will be used to the benefit of the ordinary man, and to address, among other things, squatting.
The establishment of the National Squatter Settlement Commission was among three promises the President made to the people that night; the others being the establishment of a State Land Resettlement Commission and the provision of a Financial Grant for children currently in school.
EMPHASIS ON HOUSING
Since taking office in May 2015, the Granger Administration has placed major emphasis on the housing sector. Just days ago, 20 families received the keys to their new homes at Prospect, on the East Bank of Demerara (EBD), after squatting on Broad and Lombard Streets in Charlestown for decades.
The houses were built by the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) and the NGO, Food for the Poor (FFTP) Guyana.
Back in 2017, some $43M was allocated by the CH&PA to have a total of 72 houses erected for the squatters. The 20 houses, valued at $36M, form part of Phase One of a two-phase project.
Since 2015, the CH&PA has initiated a number of settlement regularisation plans for Guyana, in an attempt to address the sore issue of squatting. Last December, it noted that some squatting areas would be regularised and converted into housing schemes, while others such as ‘Plastic City’ would be relocated. Some 173 squatting settlements are being targeted.
Overall in the Housing Sector, the CH&PA said it has recorded a huge increase in the demand for housing solutions, at a time when there are over 25,000 active applications in the system.
A study done by the United Nations (UN) informed Guyana that the demand for housing over the next four to five years would go up to about 4,000 housing solutions a year, inclusive of renovations.
As such, the main focus of the Authority is on creating housing solutions. Their efforts to create those solutions were augmented through support from the (Guyana Lands and Surveys Commission (GLSC) and the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL).
Recently, the CH&PA acquired land from NICIL, and is currently in the process of acquiring land from the GLSC.
Lands which were made available through NICIL are in Meten-Meer-Zorg, in West Demerara; Mon Repos, Vigilance and LBI on the East Coast; Experiment, in West Berbice; and Fort Ordinance, in East Berbice. Those lands which are yet to be acquired from the GLSC are in Bartica, Amelia’s Ward, Wisroc and Kwakwani.
During the first half of 2019, the CH&PA distributed a total of 541 house lots in Regions Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam); Three; Four (Demerara-Mahaica; Five (Mahaica-Berbice); and Nine (Upper Takutu- Upper Essequibo), which represented 54.1 per cent of the target for 2019.
According to the Ministry of Finance’s mid-year report for 2019, house lots were distributed in Onderneeming, Recht Door Zee, Zeelugt, Eccles, Providence Gardens, Prospect, Mon Repos, Enmore, Culvert City and Tabatinga.
In the second half of the year, the Authority reportedly distributed a further 459 house lots. Additionally, the Authority will develop and distribute 4,000 new house lots in 12 areas this year.