Govt housing heavily subsidised – Croal rejects Opposition’s motion to review costs

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Annette Ferguson on Thursday night presented a motion calling for the establishment of special select committee to review charges for house lots for Guyanese.

“It is prudent to ask ourselves whether in 21st century Guyana , Guyanese are being provided proper housing at affordable costs. The answer for me is ‘no’,” she argued before the National Assembly.

Ferguson, who is a former Minister of Housing, says the committee can determine alternative ways to solve housing needs of the population, but did not provide any suggestions on what can be done.

She suggested that if the committee is established, it should be given a timeline of two months to complete its work.

Additionally, she called for better quality control in the construction of government houses, claiming that “many of the houses being constructed are being done in a defective way.”

But in responding to the Opposition Member’s motion, Minister of Housing and Water Collin Croal explained that there is no need for such a committee since the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) government already has a sound plan in place to ensure affordable housing is provided to Guyanese.

“This motion is quite…confusing. In its present form, it is fundamentally flawed. This motion begins in vague speculation and then crashes to an illogical conclusion that is mind boggling,” Croal contended.

“There is no specificity in the motion, just words that spring together and when you study what is presented, there is no basis for the conclusion that it draws.”

He explained that currently, categories for house lots and houses from the government range from low income, moderate, middle and high.

These are allocated based on applicant’s income and other factors, the Minister noted, adding that in some cases, applicants request a change in their category and many times, these are facilitated.

Croal further revealed that from 2015 to present, the cost for low income lots ranged from $92,000 to $250,000; moderate income from $300,000 to $700,000; middle income from $800,000 to $2,000,000; and high income from $2,000,000 to $6,000,000.

He further pointed out that in regions such as Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) and Ten (Upper Demerara -Berbice), the cost for housing will be less than in Region Four (Demerara -Mahaica).

Croal explained that prices are determined based on infrastructure, land size and the market.

He added that the house lots are already heavily subsidised by government.

Further, the Minister reminded that the administration has worked with the banks to expedite applications for mortgages and to lower interest rates.

Croal revealed that in 2020, the NBS received 669 applicants and had disbursed $3.5 billion while in 2023, it had received over 2500 applicants and disbursed some $19 billion.

He also noted that the banks are now lending as much as 100 per cent of the cost of building the house and they are using the land as equity.

In this regard, the Housing Minister argued that there is a demand for house lots in every category and therefore, Ferguson’s motion has no merit.

The Minister revealed that to date, the PPP government has distributed over 33,000 house lots, prioritising 2019 and earlier.

He said 91.8 per cent of the allocations benefited low income, moderate income and middle income Guyanese.

“The high income was only 8.2 per cent,” he said.

Providing a further breakdown, he said of the lots distributed, 43 per cent went to low income earners, 30 per cent to moderate income households, and 18.8 per cent to the middle income category.

Additionally, he said individuals aged 21-35 represent 52 per cent of allocations.

He also noted that the housing programme has seen 45.8 per cent of allocations going to women, 27.6 per cent to males and 26.6 per cent being joint applicants.

Croal further revealed that during its current term in office, the government has developed over 50 housing areas. In contrast, he said from 2015 to 2020, the previous government only developed three and their total allocation in five years was 7,534.

Additionally, the Minister said contracts have been signed for the construction of over 3000 houses and to date, 1495 have been completed and handed over.

“The construction sector received new life under this PPP/C Government. No amount of spin…will change the achievements made by the Ministry of Housing and Water,” Croal said.