GUYANA’S HOUSING SECTOR is good market for new investments By ZENA HENRY
By the year 2020, the housing authority in Guyana would want constructed some 10,000 housing units in housing schemes that accommodate citizens of varying income earnings. The idea is to bridge the housing gap by allowing as many families as possible easy access to their own affordable homes. The idea also addresses the issue of cohesion, where there is no segregating of homeowners based on the amount of money they earn, because all will have a home they could be proud of. Policymakers are interested in easing the burden that a new homeowner must now face. These include securing a housing loan from the bank, locating a contractor and managing the construction of their property, all while juggling their regular nine to five. Of course, it would be impossible to monitor the construction of your home and be at your place of work at the same time. In some cases, prospective homeowners had difficulty in securing loans without the intervention of the housing department. So, even when the land was acquired, some homeowners were unable to start or complete their projects. Reasons like these required the housing arm of the Ministry of Communities to restructure their housing plans. The Ministry of Housing’s Chief Executive Officer, Lelon Saul, told the Guyana Inc. Magazine that at this time the Authority is not focused on issuing lands alone to citizens within the specific income bracket. With focus on moderate to middle income earners, he said that the Ministry would like to issue citizens move-in ready homes, with as many amenities available and a little support from them to encourage the bank to offer the loans.
Prospective homeowners have commended housing officials for ensuring that basic utilities and amenities are in place before selling homes to residents. They have expressed joy over the new housing designs offered and the types of green, cohesive communities that are being promoted. Where even the lowest income earner may have been accustomed to purchasing a single unit structure, duplex homes and eventually townhouses are now being introduced. Many locals were not big on sharing one land space and being so close to their neighbours, but the idea of two persons on one lot has started to catch on, since homeowners were shown the potential of the accommodation; their ability to extend, the safety of having a close neighbour and all within a price range that suits them. Housing authorities have a lot of plans for growing the sector and private developers will play a major part in this in the near future. Housing’s CEO said that currently, seven overseas companies are in talks with the Authority in public-private partnership arrangements that could see them building thousands of homes across the country’ s 10 regions. The Ministry is always accommodating to developers and investors, Saul related. He explained that the process for a foreign company to enter the country’s housing sector simply requires them to first express interest in the sector by way of letter to the housing department. A proposal is also submitted to the Ministry’s Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) for consideration. Once the proposal has been deemed reasonableand workable, an agreement is made between the two parties for the investor to build in accordance with CH&PA’s stipulations, or that which is mutually agreed upon. The expected growth of Guyana’s economy has seen many in the diaspora returning home for business purposes, while others are just seeking to resettle. Remigrants are starting to make up a large part of those the housing ministry is serving. Saul said that while remigrants are currently following the same application process as locals, a special arrangement will be made in the future, since those returning from overseas are ready and willing, with cash in hand to purchase a home. He said many overseas families prefer the duplex homes to house relatives in different quarters. Saul related that the local housing sector is heavily subsidized by the Government, but the remigrant market is especially one where an investor can capitalize, since these returning Guyanese have the funds to build and customize their homes now. Saul said that Guyana is a good place to invest, especially in the area of low income housing. “When you take into consideration the deficit in low income houses, anyone who wants to invest in low income housing; providing that the prices are competitive… the country is a good market for that. We have a great demand for housing at the low income level.” Guyana’s growth, especially with recent oil finds, will have positive spinoffs in the housing sector. Saul said the ability to house citizens plays a major role in a country’s overall growth. He said once the housing and building sector continues to grow, expansion of the economy will occur. The Housing Ministry is encouraging as many who can to own their own home. “Your home is an important and expensive investment and ideally homeowners and prospective home owners should be involved in all aspects of the construction and expansion of their homes.” Home ownership gives a sense of permanence where families can live and grow. It gives peace of mind and emotional security. Owning one’s own home also gives a sense of family and community belonging. It raises self-esteem and promotes some sense of freedom.
“Your home is an important and expensive investment and ideally homeowners and prospective home owners should be involved in all aspects of the construction and expansion of their homes.”