By Caribbean News Global contributor
ST JOHNS, Antigua – Prime minister and minister of finance and corporate governance, Gaston Browne, 2020 Budget Statement, ‘Growth and development for the benefit of all’ tells the story that encapsulates the objectives “we are purposefully and vigorously implementing,” two-fold, “a policy and a practice” building “a brighter future, is now ours to embrace,” affirmed, “our country is experiencing a housing revolution that will benefit all Antiguans and Barbudans.
Leaning on this policy and practice prime minister Browne laid out a new foundation and “as a small nation that put its shoulder to the wheel and its nose to the grindstone”, look forward to economic performance with dividends.
“Providing affordable housing, especially low-income social housing for the poor and vulnerable, is one of the most important goals of our government,” Prime minister Browne explained, in his 2020 Budget Statement.
A project, funded with a $15.5 million grant from the European Union, will start this month to rebuild 150 homes that suffered major damage during the passage of hurricane Irma.
Grant funding of $120 million from China will pay for the construction of 250 low-income, climate-resilient homes at several locations in Antigua, with approximately 50 percent earmarked for Booby Alley; and fifty of the homes will also be constructed on Barbuda.
The National Housing and Urban Renewal, which built and handed over 87 homes in 2019, at Paynter’s Development, will complete construction of another 73 this year at that location.
At Denfields, 60 homes are completed and ready to be transferred to potential homeowners, once the necessary infrastructure is in place.
Under the “Build on Your Own Land” option, National Housing also completed and transferred 63 houses to homeowners, and 100 parcels of land were sold to Antiguan and Barbudan citizens in the Friars Hill development.
Ninety-four parcels of land at Donovan’s are currently being distributed under the land for youth initiative and 92 parcels at Royal Gardens are being distributed to potential homeowners.
The Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHAPA) has developed approximately 20 new homes at North Sound, with a further ten under construction at Lightfoot. Between CHAPA and the lands division, approximately 250 parcels of land were sold in 2019.
As part of the government’s strategy to renew and expand the housing stock rapidly, lands are being sold at the concessional rate of $3.00 per square foot, to contractors and developers, who will build affordable homes for sale to citizens and residents. This type of development will take place at Belmont, Paynters, Judges Hill, Lightfoot, and Bolans.
To help accelerate the supply of homes to Antiguans and Barbudans, the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), will also construct a few hundred homes in Paynters, Bolans, and Belmont. For these properties, lands will only be transferred from the Crown to the homeowner; at no point during the process will CCECC hold title to the lands. This project will be executed under the oversight of CHAPA.
CHAPA will also be constructing additional low-income homes for individuals who do not qualify under the National Housing initiative.
The United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS) and Bau Panel, have recently acquired funding to construct a factory in Antigua to manufacture 10,000 affordable and sustainable homes. Two thousand, five hundred (2,500) of these homes will be allocated to Antiguans and Barbudans, while the others will be exported to countries in the Eastern Caribbean. The price for these homes will be under $150,000.00.
“Unlike the previous partnership in which Bau Panel would have utilized domestic financing and speculated with domestic land”, Browne said, “this is a credible partnership with UNOPS, which my government fully endorses. It will bring foreign direct investment, that will create jobs and develop an export product.”
“Public servants, particularly teachers, nurses, police, and soldiers, will receive special access to the housing projects. We are determined to build a prosperous and inclusive economy where everyone can shine, wherever in Antigua and Barbuda they live, and whatever their socio-economic circumstances,” Browne said.
Public Servants home repairs and homeownership
The government of Antigua and Barbuda has introduced measures to assist public servants with home repairs and homeownership. But, “we recognize said Browne, that while many have benefitted from these arrangements, other public officials have not been able to capitalize on them.”
Therefore, we are implementing new procedures to allow easier access to the following initiatives:
- Public servants seeking to build their first home will be eligible for concessions provided under the ABIA Construct Antigua Barbuda Initiative (CABI) for a dwelling home valued up to $400,000.00. The general CABI threshold is $350,000.
- Public servants will also be able to benefit from a special window at the Caribbean Union Bank for repairing and refurbishing their homes. An approved public servant can get up to $50,000 for home repairs, at an attractive interest rate. The Government will provide a guarantee of $5 million, to CUB to facilitate this special arrangement.
- Public servants building their first house or repairing their home will be able to get concessions on import duty normally applied to building supplies and home furnishings.
Youth empowerment through Housing
The 2020 Budget Statement explains that the government makes the acquisition of real property possible through its land for youth initiative and that, the Young Entrepreneurs component of the Entrepreneurial Development Programme is in place, and provides special access to resources, mentoring and technical support to develop and execute their business ideas.
The Science and Innovation Centre that is being managed by The United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS), to promote local entrepreneurship, offers great prospects for the youth to develop programming skills and identify innovative use of technology to solve real-world problems. Further, with the retrofitting of the former Deluxe Cinema, those who are interested in music, the arts and culture, will have a dedicated space to hone their skills.
Adding color and ambiance to Antigua and Barbuda Housing Revolution, a US$10 million Harris Paints factory via the Harris Paints Company has already made a sizeable investment and proposes to start operations shortly.
“We can expect a significant boost in economic activity, new job opportunities, and increased incomes,” Browne said, “making Antigua and Barbuda, inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, for the benefit of all.”