Minister Browne says only $5M spent on housing project to date

Candia Williams, one of the first homeowners to receive the keys to their homes under the National Housing Project in Paynters, takes a photo op in front of her new home with Minister of Lands and Housing, Maria Browne, during a tour of the project yesterday. Williams is yet to officially move into the home as she is doing her final cleaning. (Photo by Latrishka Thomas).

By Latrishka Thomas

While on a media tour of the National Housing Project in Paynters, yesterday, the Minister of Lands and Housing revealed that the first phase of the project has been completed. However, she made it clear that nowhere near $400 million has been pumped into the housing development programme being undertaken by the National Housing Company.

Housing Minister Maria Browne used the opportunity to refute recent statements made by the Political Leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP), Harold Lovell, who claimed that almost $400 million had already been spent on the project.

 “Now, we’ve been getting a lot of backlashes from the opposition, but it’s unfortunate that Harold Lovell and the UPP see it fit that they need to stay relevant, riding on lies that they portrayed to the citizenry of Antigua and Barbuda. Recently, I heard Mr. Lovell say that we spent over $400 million on these homes; absolute rubbish!” Browne said.

 “National Housing has borrowed monies from the Global Bank of Commerce to the tune of $15 million. We borrowed from the [Financial Services Regulatory Commission] FSRC $20 million as well and only $5 million of the taxpayers’ monies have been pumped into National Housing. So, when Harold Lovell and the UPP see it fit to throw lashes at National Housing, they need to come with the facts and they need to speak to the people of Antigua and Barbuda honestly. They need to cleanse their hearts so that their tongues can be washed. It is too much at this point in time,” she added.

Thus far, about 90 “affordable, low-income and climate resilient housing” have been completed.

The Minister of Lands said that she is proud to say that these houses have been built by locals and with 80 percent local resources and will be mostly occupied by civil servants.

 “Our houses were built by 100 percent local manpower. That is something we can take pride in. We have about 300 workers on payroll and they work every day, Monday to Friday, on these homes [in Paynters] and at our other project at Denfields and on build on your own land, and they have been able to produce such lovely edifices for our citizenry to inhabit. Additionally, the beneficiaries of these homes are actually 70 percent civil servants, so we are so proud of that too,” she said.

The houses are equipped with solar panels, water heaters, 8,000-gallon sewage systems which, according to Browne, are unlike what obtains in the typical home and will be in a central location, located over mile away from the homes.

The minister also mentioned plans to develop a green space furnished with benches and sporting or recreational facilities within the project.