HOPE housing ‘shortfall’ under hammer

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley must cut down on travelling and pay attention to what is happening in Barbados.

That is the advice of Opposition Leader Ralph Thorne who then tore into the HOPE (Home Ownership Providing Energy) housing project and the more than 478 acres of land surrendered to it without the promised housing solutions materialising.

He was replying on Tuesday to Monday’s Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals 2024 delivered by Mottley in the House of Assembly.

Thorne described HOPE, incorporated in 2020, as a private sector enterprise masquerading with a public status and to which 478.2 acres of land and $60 million of the Housing Credit Fund were given and only
131 houses constructed.

He compared the happenings within housing and Government to one of the greatest attempted biblical deceptions with words “the hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob”.

Thorne said he saw 20 acres of land put into the hands of HOPE and following that legislative process was then a town hall meeting with St Michael South East and St George South.

“I saw that and I saw lands at Lower Burney/Hanson Hill being vested in a company called HOPE. Preceding that legislative act on Tuesday was a town hall meeting on the Sunday in the constituency of the Honourable Member for St Michael South East. I will not be silent, this is the people’s business . . . . I am going to even more sordid times,” he told the House.

The Christ Church South MP also called on Government to give an account as he charged that the new chief executive officer of HOPE was receiving $30 000, converted into pounds sterling and deposited in an overseas account as the appointee did not have a work permit. The finance officer, he added, was receiving $14 000 while still in the employ of another company, while the chairman lived in South Africa and conducted meetings via Zoom.

“Precious Barbadian soil where the blood of slaves irrigated trees and bear sweet fruit, and along comes a private company masquerading with a public status and a Parliament of this country, and hands to the private company 478.2 acres and the people in this country should be pleased, and the National Housing Corporation (NHC) should be pleased,” he stated.

Quoting from a letter he said he intended to make a document of the House, Thorne said it contained the general manager of the NHC surrendering to HOPE by identifying several keys sites to accommodate the latter’s project.

The Opposition Leader referred to infelicities as he cited ten acres at Branchbury, St Joseph; 40 acres in Bright Hall, St Lucy and 27 acres at Colleton, St John, and Cottage, St George. He said the letter invited HOPE to visit the development sites.

“It is what the people need to understand, what is happening with their birthright,” he said.

At Lancaster, he said, the land was valued at $18 a square foot and HOPE got it for $2.15 per square foot.

In relation to the Dura Villa houses out of Guyana, first displayed at Agrofest a few years ago, Thorne charged that the ministry failed to do its due diligence when making the purchase.

He said the cheap price quoted did not included the foundation. He asked where were those houses now.

“What is really happening in Barbados? Why are we being treated by this Government as though we have no worth . . . . People are afraid this Government has trammelled their rights.

“Minister [of Housing Dwight Sutherland], I don’t blame you. You’ve been put on the spot and even if they try to remove you, I would defend you,” Thorne said.

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