Ministry mulling building homes to relocate Lombard St residents

Residents wishing to relocate from shacks they are occupying at the corner of Lombard and Broad streets, Georgetown, may soon be able to do so with the help of the Ministry of Communities’ Department of Housing and the Ministry of Public Health.

According to a statement released by the Ministry of Public Health on Monday, both it and the Ministry of Communities’ Department of Housing have committed to improving the lives of the residents, who have expressed the desire to have “turnkey” homes built for the 56 families living in the area. “We are looking at the possibility of building core homes so that when we remove the people from here, we’re going to put them in a house rather than [giving them a piece of] land,” Minister within the Ministry of Communities, with responsibility for Housing, Valarie Patterson is reported to have said during a recent visit to the settlement.

An aerial view of the community at Lombard and Broad streets

The statement said Patterson and Minister of Public Health Volda Lawrence met with the residents to “iron out” some of the burning issues faced by several of them, who have applied for house lots and are impatient at the slow processing their applications.

Lawrence, who previously served as Minister of Social Protection, had met with the residents on several occasions, during which time she had committed to improving their living standards.  In September, 2016, Lawrence had led a team from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to the area as part of their first country visit to Guyana. A statement from the IACHR on the September 21 to 23 visit said in part, “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.”

Several visits to the area by Stabroek News saw the residents publicly declaring their request from land on which they can establish their homes.

Lawrence, as Social Protection Minister, had explained to Stabroek News that the community was populated by two sets of residents, only one of which could be relocated.

“What I have been told with regard to property is that it was left intestate. There are several families and offspring of families of the original owners still living there …who feel that they should be the ones to inherit the property. They will remain there since they see it as their right to be there and so there will always be residents there,” Lawrence explained.  She had however explained that another group of persons have over the years taken up residence. These persons, who have no other place to live, had been encouraged to apply to the Ministry of Communities’ Housing Department for relief.

She noted under the previous administration, several of the residents had applied to the ministry of housing and some were even allocated house lots but the cost for the lot “was far above their capacity to pay.”

Lawrence had indicated that she was working with Minister Patterson to see how they could utilise house lots which were allocated but not occupied for these residents. The two ministers appear to be closer to fulfilling this goal, with Minister Patterson committing to relocating the persons living there.

The government statement said that Phillip Chase, a resident of the settlement for more than a decade, organised the meeting with the two government ministers, paving the way for them to secure better homes.

Chase and other residents expressed satisfaction at the commitments made by the ministries.

“I am grateful for what the government is doing since I have waited many years for an opportunity for better housing,” Marissa Aldia, another resident living in the squatter community was reported as saying.

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