Building Expo highlights housing boom, increased importation of materials

Several private sector housing initiatives were highlighted at the Building Expo with many of the multi-million dollar projects looking to import materials to meet the taste of their clients.

Representatives of the companies present at the fourth annual International Building Expo spoke of importing various materials such as plywood and fences, among others, which can be manufactured here. The Expo, which was held at the Providence Stadium tarmac, ended yesterday. Private construction companies and the Housing Ministry focused on the future of residential housing development in Guyana and showcased housing schemes and model homes.

Prime Minister Samuel Hinds examining the roofing material offered by Marjon Trading (GINA photo)
Prime Minister Samuel Hinds examining the roofing material offered by Marjon Trading (GINA photo)

Many of the private companies are in the beginning stages of development with a few acquiring land within the last year and looking to assess the market needs.

Bai Shan Lin Housing and Construction Incorporated, an offshoot of the parent company Bai Shan Lin International Forest Development Inc was one of the few community development-based private companies already in the construction stages. Company liaison officer Casey Zhang interpreting for Chinese company representatives, stated that the company has commenced construction of the US$10 million exhibition centre located in Providence, East Bank Demerara.

She related that the housing development was a ten-year project and the 1200 acres of land issued to the company by government will comprise a US$200 million gated community with low, middle and high income housing.

Zhang stated that the company has secured US$70 million from the China Development Bank along with money from the main investor of the project Heilong Jiang Bai Shan Lin International. Zhang noted that prospective clients are being identified so that the company can gather information relating to what Guyanese value when purchasing a home such as, price, location, amenities, among others.  Zhang told Stabroek News that this is a long-term project and material will first be sourced locally before they source from overseas.

Steven Sawh, a representative of Windsor Estates told Stabroek News that local sourcing of material is not a priority. He pointed out that concrete, sand, lumber, windows and labour would be locally sourced once the project commences but the trim, inclusive of roofing, flooring and tiles would be imported from the United States. He said that the idea was to build North American-style homes and that would require importing of materials. Sawh stated that just over a year ago, 25 acres of land was acquired behind Republic Park which would result in construction of approximately 150 homes. Sawh noted that the homes would range from $17.5 million to $40 million and would be 1300-3600 square feet.

The housing ministry is also looking to attract young professionals and remigrants and has steadily focused its efforts on a range of housing schemes reflective of their target audiences. The newest scheme for young professionals located in Providence, East Bank Demerara will commence construction in October although none of the logistics in relation to selling the land and house as a package have been formalized.

Taslim Baksh, the ministry’s Director of Finance told Stabroek News that the newest project from the ministry does not currently have a working relationship with any of the commercial banks. He said that so far, while building is set to commence in October, the ministry will have to conduct interviews with persons who have applied. He said that the ministry is looking to build 550 homes on the land acquired from GuySuCo.

Baksh said that the purpose of the Building Expo is to get persons who have shown interest listed and they will be informed as to how to proceed. He noted that once persons qualify for the $19 million young professional home it did not mean they would have the ability to purchase. He said that it is an ongoing process and mortgages would still need to be taken on at the customer level as there is no working relationship with the banks at this stage unlike the first phase of the young professionals’ project which resulted in 55 homes being built and sold. Residents who qualified and were able to purchase homes during the first phase were issued mortgages of $11 million through the ministry’s corporate relationship with Republic Bank; the value of the homes was $12.5 million each.

Finishing Touches

With the building boom in full swing Guyanese businesses are hoping to cash in but local manufacturers will face competition. Businesses have seized the opportunity to import items such as windows and plywood which is then cut down to size for sale in Guyana.

Trinidad-based ANSA McAl Trading Limited is marketing Abel Clay Blocks which representatives said have a heavier load bearing capability than cement blocks. The company is also targeting customers purchasing grills for door and who desire windows with a customisable steel frame. Sales representative for the company Apollos Manoharlall told Stabroek News that while the product line is all imported, it is fitting for a Guyanese market. He noted that the steel grill work is customisable and the company provides free estimates to consumers.

Some Chinese-Guyanese businesses are looking further ahead and importing raw materials for fabrication in Guyana. Qiyuan Zhang, General Manger of New Thriving and representative for Great Wall Construction stated that the company will bring in large sheets of plywood which will then be customized as doors.

Long Hi Industry currently imports materials directly from China and assembles gates and fences in Guyana. Marjon Trading recently began importing the Milano style roofing tile from New Zealand. The company representative told Stabroek News that the company is hoping to acquire space at an industrial site but noted that importing of the product and resale is easier.

Critics of Building Expo have said that if Guyana continues moving toward the importing of materials including clay blocks, grills, roofing and flooring, Guyanese manufacturers and producers will eventually be pushed out. The possibility that companies are importing for cheap assembling in Guyana then exporting is also an issue as taxation on manufactured and assembled items varies.

A large percentage of exhibitors were various builders who are overseas-based Guyanese working alone or partnering with companies. The composition of the Expo appeared not to be conducive to patrons interested in applying for house lots and the various housing schemes introduced by the housing ministry. The ministry had a booth that patrons would visit to apply for house lots, while the application for housing schemes was done in another area and commercial banks were represented throughout.

When Stabroek News spoke with one commercial bank representative, the worker said that it would be best to speak with banking officials at the head office. Stabroek News was told that when the ministry expresses a desire to have a working relationship in relation to mortgages, the banks would have discussions at the board level before any agreements would be made.

Guyana’s fourth Building Expo closed yesterday after three days with the ministry touting it as the most successful thus far. The Central Housing and Planning Authority began the initiative in 2010 with Minister Irfaan Ali underscoring the importance of the construction industry and its relevance in continued development.

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