President halts Broad Street squatters’ relocation
…as CH&PA finds soil condition inappropriate
The relocation process for the squatters at Broad and Lombard Streets, Georgetown has been put on hold as a result of resistance from Mocha Arcadia residents coupled with unsuitable soil content and a request from President David Granger.
Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Lelon Saul on Tuesday told reporters that the relocation of persons squatting on private property at Broad and Lombard Streets, Georgetown to Barnwell North on the East Bank of Demerara has been halted while the Authority sought a more suitable location.
“Barnwell was deemed an inappropriate location because of the soil condition. Additionally, the residents of Mocha Arcadia – we did get some resistance from the residents and the President had asked that we put the project on hold pending the outcome of the CoI into ancestral land. Notwithstanding the request of the President, we have deemed the location inappropriate and we decided to look at another location,” Saul said.
Saul said that they were currently looking to relocate the squatters to Cummings Lodge on the East Coast of Demerara and that process was expected to commence soon.
“Currently, we are working to find a suitable location for the residents of Broad Street and soon as we identify that location, the project will be implemented. Most likely, the residents would be relocated at Cummings Lodge. In terms of timeline, first, we have to develop the location at Cummings Lodge and we see that the relocation taking place sometime in October,” he explained.
The squatting area came to public attention after former Social Protection Minister Volda Lawrence led a team from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to the area as part of their first country visit to Guyana.
“During its visit to the neighbourhood of Lombard Street, the IACHR delegation was shocked by the extreme poverty and precarious living conditions of its inhabitants. The community comprises approximately 40 adults and 80 children with clear housing, sanitation, and health problems, as well as limited work opportunities and scant social services provided by the State,” the IACHR said in a statement following the visit.
Some 68 adults and 100 children are living in the area under severe poverty and the land belongs to a private individual, who has been granted a judgment against the squatters in the High Court. They were supposed to be relocated to Barnwell North, but the residents of Mocha Arcadia held protests over the relocation.
The Department of Housing, in collaboration with the Food For The Poor Organisation, was expected to construct 72 homes for the squatters. Government will be matching the $42 million contribution by the Food For The Poor Organisation, but President David Granger is not pleased with the current house model. Taking that into consideration the CH&PA would be making slight alterations to create more space by adding a back patio and a shaded veranda to the house.
Each home is expected to cost $1.2 million and Minister with responsibility for Housing, Valerie Patterson-Yearwood said that they were working out a plan with the prospective owners for them to stand the cost of water meters among other things.
In October last year, Patterson-Yearwood said that the relocation process for the squatters at Broad and Lombard Streets have been hindered by the discrimination from residents of Mocha Arcadia. Concerns were raised about the social implications of the relocation exercise, which resulted in the Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC) and residents refusing to accept the relocated persons in their community.
While she admits that the initial action taken by the CH&PA to have the squatters relocated was unilateral, Minister Patterson-Yearwood had explained that the squatters had found themselves in a dilemma since they were ordered by the court to remove from the property.
She said that because of the urgency of the matter, the CH&PA moved to secure lands aback of Mocha. By the time they consulted the Mocha NDC, the housing body had already committed to the squatters to have them relocated there.