Saturday, April 13, 2024

Clarke: Speed it up!


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Opposition member of Parliament Gline Clarke has called on Government to strengthen the capacity of the National Housing Corporation (NHC) and look at ways to speed up the process for transferring housing units to renters.
Speaking during debate on the NHC (Transfer of Terrace Units) Bill 2012 in Parliament yesterday, the former housing minister described the NHC as “asset-rich and cash-poor”.
He emphasized the need to put the state-owned corporation in a position where it could earn revenue and not only provide housing, but also offer loans and facilitate repairs.
He said there were still too many Barbadians who went to NHC offices day after day in vain, so there was a crying need for more housing lots. One of the ways to do this, he suggested, was by acquiring more land and compensating the owners in order to build the NHC’s capacity to deliver housing spots.
In terms of the transfer of titles, Clarke said this process was often delayed and involved two to three lawyers who eventually incurred some costs. He suggested that Government therefore look at the Land Registry to see what could be done to speed up conveyancing.
“The whole process of the matter of registration needs looking at. It is not a political issue and we need to get around it. This process started 20 to 30 years ago,” he said, noting that currently transfers for housing projects like Lancaster Phase 2 in St James, Valery in St Michael and Constant in St George were still at zero, while only a small number of houses had been transferred at Coverley in Christ Church.
“The transferral process seems a bit slow. . . .  Government’s housing programme is not as stellar as they want us to believe,” he told the chamber.
Clarke called on Government to complete the Lancaster project, and suggested that if it could not get the houses at Coverley sold because of certain restrictions, it should give them away.   
He also suggested that in terms of transfers, a good housing policy should be sustainable and capable of being transferred from one generation to another, but in the current NHC situation, there was a ten-year restriction on those who now owned units and wished to transfer them to relatives.
Ten years was too long, he declared.
Noting that it was the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) which had started the housing units divestment programme in 2003, he recalled that in 1994 the Democratic Labour Party wanted to increase NHC rents for such units, but when the BLP came to office a task force was set up to look at a divestment programme.
Therefore, he added, when the DLP won the last election in 2008, it found a programme of divestment where NHC units were to be sold at concessionary rates – some for as little as $1 000, he told parliamentarians.
“The record must be clear,” he said. “In order to enfranchise Barbadians, home ownership has to be the order of the day.”
Clarke also denied criticizing the present Government’s decision to give NHC units to those who had resided in them for 20 years. He said the Opposition had advised in 2008 that the law would have to be changed in that regard, since at the time the NHC could only transfer land by sale or lease.
The St George North representative also commented that middle income earners had been to some extent “left out” of the national housing policy, and he suggested that while rebates on income tax had been used in the past to help them pay mortgages and upgrade their homes, more of this should be done by using existing laws to help middle income earners.
He also reminded the chamber that many policemen, teachers and others in the middle income category were in need of housing. (RJ)

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