The Broad and Lombard Streets squatters today thanked the government for fulfilling its promise of providing better living conditions.
The Ministry of Communities’ decision to relocate the squatters to Barnwell, East Bank Demerara (EBD) was the result of a legal action by the land owner and a High Court decision, which led to a six-week eviction notice.
This initiative, which is part of the ministry’s effort to regularise housing is a collaborative effort between the ministry and Food for the Poor to construct 72 single homes, each costing $1.2M to accommodate the residents.
The government will invest $42M on the relocation programme, which will be transferred to Food for the Poor for the construction of the houses to match the amount provided by the agency and $30M for the infrastructure development of the area.
Phillip Chase, representative of the Broad and Lombard Squatting area.
Phillip Chase, representative of the Broad and Lombard Streets Squatters told the Department of Public Information (DPI) in an interview that he has been living in the area for 15 years with his wife and children. He noted that he had tried previously to gain the attention of the government to offer some form of assistance for the residents especially for the children.
“We (Broad and Lombard Street squatting area) were not satisfied living in these conditions so we had approached the previous government to visit the area which they promised that they will visit. They also promise that they will help us (in terms of lands) but they did not fulfill their promise. However, the government has changed and it is not even three years in office (they have developed a plan to relocate us) and we are very thankful for the government for what they are doing for us especially since they said that there is lot more to be done,” Chase explained.
Chase said that he is thankful for the support given by the government and Food for the Poor, in recognising and understanding the need of the residents for a better standard of living. He pointed out that after inviting a number of ministers, they ‘shed tears and said that they will do something for us’.
Deon Bramma, a 20-year resident of the squatting area, said she had wanted to apply for a house lot, but certain restrictions prevented her doing so, particularly the number of down payments to be made before one could attain the land.
Deon Bramma, a resident, Broad and Lombard Squatting Area
“When PPP was in power, when you go to housing first thing they tell you is that you have to come with a $100,000 one time. You can’t come short, you can’t come this you can’t come that but thank God that APNU win the election and we can get a better deal. We are getting our own house and our own land free of cost we don’t have to pay for anything for it but build the toilet and everything and pay our rates and tax and light bill”
Anetha Dash told DPI that she has been living in the squatting area for 23 years and decided to apply for a house lot at the Ministry of Housing (now Ministry of Communities) but never received a response.
“I applied at the Ministry of Housing since 2002 but they (Ministry of Housing) never contact me and even if they had contact me I would have been unable to afford the price for the land that they were selling, which was $500,000 and other kinds of price at that time,” Dash explained. She noted that she is grateful for the initiative taken by the ministry and Food for the Poor to have the residents relocated to healthier living conditions.
It was highlighted that the area has approximately 68 adults and 80 children with obvious housing, sanitation, and health problems, as well as limited work opportunities and scant social services.
Minister within Ministry of Communities, Valerie Adams-Yearwood highlighted that though the government and Food for the Poor will be financing the project, the style of the homes will be readjusted from the Food for the Poor models, with a back patio and a shaded verandah.
A plan is also expected to be created for the residents to pay for some of the materials like the water meters among other amenities, the minister said.
Ivor Allen has been awarded two contracts for the infrastructural development works (roads, drainage and water) at Barnwell, EBD which is scheduled to be completed within eight weeks.