Clients have been turning up in vain at the former office of a local housing developer in the city to uplift monies which were paid towards a housing project intended for the East Bank of Demerara but which never materialized.
This newspaper understands that the developer, Fazil Ramzan of Umana Developments, moved out of the Winter Place, Brickdam office where he established the business, early last year. Persons at the facility, which is now occupied by another business entity, told this newspaper recently that a number of prospective home owners who paid large sums of money towards the project have been turning up at the location enquiring about the project.
This newspaper made several unsuccessful attempts to obtain a comment from the developer. A former employee noted that the developer is currently residing overseas. It doesn’t appear as if any construction was done.
Attempts to obtain a comment from Minister of Housing and Water, Irfaan Ali were in vain and checks with the Central Housing and Planning Authority last week to verify whether private housing projects are sanctioned by the body proved futile, with persons there stating that the relevant person was unavailable.
Ramzan was keen to point out during an interview with Stabroek News in January last year that for many reasons persons should grab the offer before it was too late, given that many persons–particularly a strong overseas clientele–were buying into the deal.
It was noted recently by persons at the former location of Umana Developments that most of the payments towards the project were made by overseas–based Guyanese, and according to reports the project was never sanctioned by the commercial banks as the developer was engaged in a court battle over the lands intended for the project.
A West Demerera resident, who asked not to be named, told this newspaper recently that she had invested some $300,000 towards the project several months ago after making an initial payment of $200,000. She said she was able to retrieve the initial payment from Ramzan, however, she has since made numerous unsuccessful attempts to contact the developer as she was no longer interested in the project.
She said she was working at a public agency close to where the developer’s office once was on Brickdam and after making inquiries with Ramzan, she decided to invest monies in the low income homes which were available. She was required to make an initial deposit of 10% of the cost of the house.
The woman noted that the developer had a “well laid out architectural plan” for the project and as such she indicated to him that she was interested in one of the homes at Sarah Johanna. She said she lost contact with the developer in mid-2009. She noted however, that one of the man’s employees was looking after the project.
The distraught woman said that she was told by Ramzan’s employee that the business operation had moved to a location in Kitty from Brickdam last year, but she learnt that the business subsequently moved from that location after the developer was unable to pay the $150,000 monthly rent.
Additionally, the employee informed her that the transport for the land at Sarah Johanna was in the name of another person and Ramzan was attempting to transfer ownership of the land into his name.
She said the developer had explained to her initially that there was a matter before the courts involving the land at Sarah Johanna, between him and squatters who were occupying lands in the area. She said she was told last week by another individual who invested money in the project, that Ramzan lost the matter in court recently.
The woman noted that her brother invested $490,000 and a friend who works at an insurance company in the city also invested $500,000 in the project. Her friend, she noted, was able to collect $100,000 from Ramzan last December but she also lost contact with the developer.
Another prospective buyer told this newspaper recently that she made several enquiries at commercial banks in the city about the project as she sought access to a loan in order to make a down payment for one of the houses being offered by the developer via advertisements in the local newspapers.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the young woman stated that she and another relative who also had intentions of purchasing one of the homes, visited the offices of the developer early last year to make enquiries about the project.
She said Ramzan and a secretary were the only two persons who appeared to be working at the entity and according to her, during the visit the developer told her that she and her relative would be provided with two lots, and that the businessman stated that he would make the necessary arrangements to ensure she obtains a loan from a commercial bank to pay for a house. This was one of many red flags which she observed during the visit, the woman noted.
While laying out a well-drawn up plan of one of the two communities, she said Ramzan stated that the houses were “selling fast” and that she should attempt to secure hers, “as soon as possible”.
The woman said she was provided with a letter by Ramzan to take to a commercial bank which offered housing loans but to her surprise, when the letter was presented to the bank clerk, he stated that the bank had no “dealings with Umana since the developer had a matter in the court”. She said Ramzan called her on several occasions after, enquiring whether she would be obtaining a bank loan, “if not he will give me the house and I would have to pay on a monthly basis”.
Umana Developments stated in advertisements in the newspapers that the entity would have provided assistance in acquiring loans, which the company noted were available from the New Building Society (NBS) and Scotia Bank at payback rates of 7.6 per cent per annum.
The prospective buyer told Stabroek News that she changed her mind about the entire idea after she visited the Sarah Johanna area on the EBD where persons living there informed her that the area where the project was expected to be undertaken “was a resident pasture”.
Persons at the offices in the Brickdam building where Umana Developments was once housed told this newspaper recently that telephone numbers which Ramzan left at the location when he relocated last year, are usually provided to his customers, but those customers would return stating that the numbers do not exist.
`Life at the lake’
During an interview with this newspaper in January last year, Ramzan disclosed his plans for the 2,600 state-of-the-art homes at the Friendship Mews and Sara Johanna Gardens projects.
He stated at the time that two ultra-modern, gated communities were slated for completion in three years’ time (2011) and he noted at the time that the Sara Johanna Gardens would have been built on some 100 acres of land to accommodate 600 homes, while the Friendship community was expected to sit on 200 acres of land complemented by some 2,000 homes.
Fazil Ramzan disclosed that a 4,000 by 200-ft man-made lake was likely to be the standout point of the community at Friendship which he dubbed Friendship Mews –‘Life at the lake.’ The lake was expected to be built at the centre of the community, consisting of marinas and boardwalks at both ends. Water-front stores and restaurants were to complete the scene at the lake.
The communities’ plans included space for shopping centres, supermarkets, day-care centres, libraries, ATM machines for major banks, private schools, a shuttle bus services, playfields and other recreational venues.
Ramzan said during the January 2009 interview that the idea was to create a community where almost every commodity and service one needs for everyday life is provided; so that residents would not have to travel miles to the city when they need a simple service.
The cheapest house at Sarah Johanna would have cost $4.6 million with the cheapest house at Friendship being in the vicinity $9 million; the prices were already inclusive of VAT. Ramzan disclosed that occupancy for Sara Johanna Gardens which is located some seven miles from Georgetown was expected in May last year while first occupancy in Friendship Mews located about 12 miles from the city was expected the following month.
Sara Johanna Gardens was slated for completion this year while Friendship Mews was expected to be completed in 2011.