House shoots down Opposition’s motion to establish select committee to review fees for house lots

Following a marathon debate that spanned two days, the National Assembly on Friday shot down a motion tabled by the parliamentary Opposition, calling for the “establishment of a Special Select Committee to review charges for house lots” for Guyanese.
A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Member of Parliament, Annette Ferguson presented the motion on Thursday evening, stating that the creation of the Committee would address several issues within the housing sector.
“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’… This is a simple motion. The housing sector is in a dire state and if we can all come together to find a solution… pool our ideas together, and get civil society stakeholders on board, I believe that we will be able to solve the housing situation in this country,” she argued before the National Assembly.

Housing Minister Collin Croal

Ferguson, who is a former Minister within the Housing Ministry, lamented the long time it took to obtain house lots and the high costs of these lands. She also highlighted instances of bureaucracy in the process and alleged corruption within the housing sector, among other things.
The Opposition MP further called for better quality control in the construction of Government-built houses, claiming that “many of the houses being constructed are being done in a defective way”.
According to Ferguson, if the Committee is established, then it can determine alternative ways to solve the housing needs of the population and should be given a two-month timeline to do so. However, the parliamentarian did not provide any suggestions on what can be done.
This was pointed out by Housing and Water Minister Collin Croal, who, in rebuttal, argued that there was no need for such a committee and labelled the Opposition’s motion as one without merit.
“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. 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.
“The motion makes several claims and then it sets blame in the Ministry of Housing and Water and the Central Housing and Planning Authority without providing evidence that any policy on our part is responsible for the “financial constraints” [that Ferguson is claiming],” Croal contended.
The Housing Minister stated that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government already has a sound plan in place to ensure affordable housing is provided to Guyanese – something that has proven to be successful given the progress made in the sector since its return to office in 2020.
He explained that currently, categories for house lots and houses from the Government are low-income, moderate-income, middle-income, and high-income.
These are allocated based on the 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.

Opposition MP Annette Ferguson

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.
The Minister revealed that to date, the current PPP/C Government has distributed over 33,000 house lots, prioritising applications from 2019 and earlier. He said 91.8 per cent of these allocations benefited low-income Guyana at 43 per cent, moderate-income at 30 per cent, and middle-income at 18.8 per cent. The high-income allocation was a mere 8.2 per cent.
Additionally, he said individuals aged 21-35 represent 52 per cent of allocations while 45.8 per cent of allocations went to women, 27.6 per cent to males, and 26.6 per cent, 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 just 7534 – all of which were honoured by the current Administration and those areas developed.
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.

One of the housing projects presently underway

“This reflects our goal of reducing poverty and fostering inclusive growth…,” he argued, saying to Ferguson, “If you do care about the population, in three and a half years, I have never received a single complaint from you on behalf of anyone who is being faced with an issue.”
The Housing Minister further pointed out that in regions such as Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam) and 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice), the cost of 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 the Government.
Further, the Minister reminded that the administration has worked with the banks to expedite applications for mortgages and to lower interest rates. In fact, he noted that the banks were now lending as much as 100 per cent of the cost of building the house and they were using the land as equity.
In this regard, Croal argued that there was demand for house lots in every category and therefore, Ferguson’s motion has no merit.
“Given these facts, it appears that it is the folks on the other side of the House that desperately needed a Select Committee to help them manage the housing sector during their tenure… I strongly believe that this motion… is without merit, has no basis, and in fact, is a waste of all of our time,” Croal declared late Thursday night as he closed off the day’s session.
Debates on the motion continued on Friday morning and ran until the mid-afternoon hours with presentations from several other speakers on both sides. However, the Opposition’s motion was eventually defeated. (G8)