The Government of Guyana is committed to providing the good life for all Guyanese. A key part of that good life is securing a clean and safe place to live, equipped with potable water, electricity, and thriving community grounds.
In this edition of Government in Action, we hear from some of Guyana’s newest homeowners, former informal residents of 17 Broad and Lombard streets. Thanks to the efforts of the Ministry of Communities through the Department of Housing, and Food for the Poor (Guyana) Incorporated, during Phase I of the Broad and Lombard Streets Relocation and Resettlement Project, Guyana’s newest homeowners are now settling in the Prospect Housing Scheme, East Bank Demerara.
Guyana’s newest homeowners
The homeowners share their views on this life changing experience.
Ms. Marissa Aldie, homeowner: Today is the opening of Prospect Housing Scheme and [I] received my keys and it’s my dream [that] I’ve always been waiting for. So, I finally got it… I’m very much thankful to the Almighty for achieving this and words can’t explain right now, how happy I am.
Ms. Onessa Thorne, homeowner: I’m really happy and overjoyed. This is a dream come true. Everybody wants to own a home for themselves so, this is an achievement and I’m glad.
Ms. Deslyn Sheo, homeowner: I’m very blessed and I’ve waited very long for this opportunity and I’m thankful to everyone that was involved… I will [be] able to have a roof over my head that is mine, that I can call mine. I have my own land that I could do some gardening, kitchen gardening. I always wanted to do [that]. In time… [I’ll] extend.
Ms. Deon Brammer, homeowner: The best part of having your own place is that you can do whatever you feel like on your own land. If you wanted to build [another storey], if you want to build it out [wider], you can do that. And there is nobody to say, ‘well you can’t do this… on my house. Remember, you have to pay rent. You have to get [permission] from me first before you do anything’. Nobody can come, knock at my door and say… a month’s rent [is] late or a week[’s] rent [is] late.
Ms. Tessa Salmon, homeowner: Today, I’m overjoyed for the opening of the homes. Thanks to the President, [the Department of Housing], and Food for the Poor… [for] giving me a start and an opportunity for a good life and I’m so happy.
The new homeowners were also happy to live in a safe, quiet, space with their children. Many of them, the homeowners said, are excited to have access to green spaces and a play park.
Ms. Aldie: Oh, they will be much grateful, happy because… from the time we started, they were already anxious and excited to come in here.
Ms. Sheo: They will feel very great to have a different environment that would be very healthy and clean and [have] a playground for them to play in. It will be very great for them.
Ms. Brammer: My plan is all about my kids, my two sons that will be living with me. [They] will have more [claim] to it than me because, as I told them, today or tomorrow, if anything happens to me, it’s their own.
Ms. Thorne: I feel good. This is one of the things that I really wanted when I was living back in Broad and Lombard because I like quietness and this is a thumbs up. I like seeing my children run and play. We didn’t [have] that space there. The space [was] very small and [there were] plenty children, so there [was] always fighting. So, most times you have to keep your children inside and children don’t like to be confined]. So, this is really nice.
Ms. Salmon: I feel so happy. I have two smaller children too. So, they have better facilities than where I was living before. I’m so happy about that… This neighbourhood is safer and quieter and the atmosphere is good.
The homeowners expressed gratitude to the Government of Guyana for helping them fulfil one of their dreams. They also offered encouraging words for those still waiting to relocate.
Ms. Brammer: I would just like to say thanks to the Government and everyone that was on board. I know the Government will keep up the good work. And I’m hoping [for] the best for the [families left behind] at 17 Broad and Lombard [that] they will come through [safely] in [Phase II].
Ms. Sheo: I would like for everyone that was involved in this project to continue to do it [so] that others [who are] in need… will get the same opportunity that I have.
Ms. Aldie: First of all, I would like to thank the Government, the present Government, for making this project and this dream of mine a success. It’s a dream come true. As I said, words can’t explain and I’m very thankful for [receiving] my own home… Have patience. Have faith. The Government is going to do what they’re going to do, as they promised. They promised us, they fulfilled it and it has come true. So, the same is going to happen to them.
Ms. Thorne: I would just like to tell them to bare up and have some patience. It’s worth it. It’s free! It’s worth it.
Ms. Salmon: The wait was well worth it and I’m happy. And there are 31 that [are left] in Broad Street. The time will come for them… this same year. And they will be happy just like me.
Over the past four years, the Ministry of Communities through the Department of Housing has tackled over 200 projects per year. Holding firm to the belief that housing is a fundamental right for all Guyanese, Director of Projects, Mr. Omar Narine spoke about the Department’s 10-year plan to provide house lots, house units, and commercial development throughout Guyana.
“Basically, the Projects Department is responsible for the implementation and execution of all building and construction development works executed by the [Department of Housing] … We have a fleet of engineers and technicians to execute the projects to ensure that we get value for money. That is our main objective in this Department… We are currently generating a 10-year plan to develop… 50,00o house lots [over] 10 years. So, we’ve completed that 10-year plan; we’ve submitted it to the Ministry of Communities… We’re going to submit that plan to the Ministry of Finance. So, they are going to know our yearly requirement for finances to roll out this plan so that we can make housing units and house lots available in an efficient and effective manner,” Mr. Narine said.
In addition to the establishment of 50,000 house lots, the 10-year plan also includes the development of hundreds of kilometres of roads, and the construction of 10,000 housing units, for which the Department boasts a 77 per cent satisfaction rate. Among the Department’s most impactful projects is the Sustainable Housing for the Hinterland Programme. It is expected that by June 2020, over 400 housing units would have been constructed in Barima-Waini (Region One); Cuyuni-Mazaruni (Region Seven), and Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo (Region Nine).
“The most impactful projects are always when you deliver housing units to the Guyanese populace and over the last 3-4 years, we have built 500 housing units: 400 square foot units for the low-income… 600 square foot units for moderate-income families, 900 square foot and 1100 square foot for the middle-income families. We have built 80 duplexes for the first time in the history of the [Department]. That was a very high point for us… We have managed to build several housing units as far as Onderneeming on the West Bank, Bath on the West Coast, Berbice, Perseverance, and as far as Amelia’s Ward… We’ve never ventured out to [such] different areas simultaneously to build housing units,” he said.
The Department has also spent the last four years upgrading some of Guyana’s oldest housing schemes, adding recreational facilities to help foster unity, community development, constructing walkways and roads lined with street lamps to improve safety. Mr. Narine also explained the importance of blending commercial and residential planning. This, he said, stimulates the economy.
“A lot of our Guyanese stakeholder agencies are not aware that we hold the portfolio for planning. All planning permission, building permission has to be approved and planned by the [Department.] We try to mix our housing to incorporate commercial and industrial activities so that we get economic activities within the area so that people can get jobs… That is the planning approach that we take with these new Developments,” he said.
Mr. Narine admitted that seeing the Department’s projects turn into inhabited communities is very rewarding.
“It makes you so emotional that you just have to turn away sometimes… or you might break down. To be a part of the system where you have to play a pivotal role to change those persons’ lives… So, it’s… very emotional for me… When they were handing over the keys, I had to step back from the crowd. I [could only] try to maintain my composure,” he said.
The pillars of housing
Informal settlements have been established throughout Guyana, some for many years. This, of course, is not ideal as informal settlements often lack electrical and sanitation facilities. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Department of Housing, Mr. Lelon Saul who is eager to see all Guyanese settled in wholesome communities, said that the Department of Housing is committed to addressing the housing needs of all citizens.
“With these families relocating here at Prospect, they have a chance to improve their livelihoods as they are now integrated into a wholesome community… Our objective is to create safe and wholesome communities. We don’t want to see people living in squalor. We don’t want people to be living in shanties… We will address the concerns [and] housing needs of every Guyanese. And [the Prospect Housing Development Project] is testament of what we can do. We are transforming lives and when we give our word, we live up to it,” the CEO said.
Minister within the Ministry of Communities with responsibility for Housing explained that President’s David Granger’s vision for Guyana’s housing rests on four pillars that will advance the housing needs for all Guyanese: Reorientation, Resources, Regularisation, and Regionalisation.
“His Excellency… David Granger has committed that his Government’s policy is to abolish… homelessness. His desire is to see every Guyanese having a roof over their heads… Reorientation refers to giving priority to the housing needs of the most vulnerable: low-income public servants desirous of becoming first time home owners… Resources emphasis holistic community development and will go beyond the provision of house lots and having housing units,” the Minister said.
Minister Ferguson defined the final two pillars.
“Regularisation: there are three types of undesirable housing… shanties, slums, and squatter settlements. These must [end]. [Informal settlers] who reside on reserves needs to be relocated and resettled and affected persons must be provided with the option of accruing government housing. Our children must grow up in communities. Every child, every family should have a roof over their head… Regionalisation: Government’s new housing programme [aims] to create greater equality, that is, equality of access across Guyana so that the people living east of the Essequibo will enjoy similar conditions to those living west of the Essequibo,” she said.
The Government of Guyana and the Department of Housing is not just in the business of building houses for a person or a family to live. The Government is creating communities that will foster family life and development. All of Guyana’s children deserve to grow up with a roof over their heads, green spaces in which they can play, and property they can inherit and pass down to the next generation.