Size Matters

There is a recent article in The Economist which highlighted a problem of high demand for housing in London, England. Not unlike Barbados the demand is significantly located at the cheaper end of the price scale. 

Britain badly needs more homes. In the past two decades its population has grown by nearly 8m; another 2m people will be added by 2030. Many will be drawn to cities, the engine-rooms of the economy. Yet the supply of new housing is not keeping up. London alone needs an estimated 83,000 new homes each year, according to Savills, an estate agent, but is building only half that. The biggest shortfall is at the cheaper end of the housing market—anything costing less than £450 ($560) per square foot, or £4,840 per square metre, to buy. This segment accounts for nearly three-fifths of demand but less than a third of forecast supply in London (see chart).

Can high-rise buildings solve London’s housing problems
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Building High-maintenance Tombs

Submitted by Grenville Phillips II, leader of Solutions Barbados

From my experience in working among people in post-hazard environments, I can conclude that a stable house is the most prized possession. I have witnessed the grateful expressions of relief among those whose houses survived the tragic events.  The contrasting near hopeless expressions of misery among those whose houses were destroyed were almost unbearable.

It was after my first deployment to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, that I finally understood that the primary purpose of an elected Government is to protect, as much as possible, the residents from foreseeable harm. It is for this reason why it is absolutely essential for each Government in the hazard prone Caribbean region to regulate the residential construction building industry in their country.

The Government of Barbados took the first step in trying to protect the public from certain post-hazard misery by publishing the Barbados National Building Code in 1993. That was a commendable achievement because at that time, Barbados was experiencing an economic recession and political turmoil. Fortuitously, the national building standard was in place for the unprecedented building boom that would commence one year later, in 1994.

It is a national disgrace that the Government of Barbados, against all expert advice, allowed an entirely unregulated 14-year residential construction building boom with respect to building standards. Of the thousands of houses built, almost all of them are vulnerable to collapse in a major earthquake. It is to Barbados’ tragic misfortune that it would not have cost any additional money to have constructed the life-saving shear walls that the Building Code specified.

By 2010, the legacy of substandard residential construction was firmly established in Barbados. At the start of that year, an earthquake in Haiti had reportedly killed approximately 300,000 people. Near the end of that year, tropical storm Tomas examined Barbados and damaged over 1,500 houses. Following the visit to same damaged houses, our Prime Minister reportedly made the following accurate observation: “I have to confess that I was flabbergasted at the fragility of the housing accommodation in Barbados.” He then reportedly recommended that it was “absolutely necessary to impose building standards in Barbados”, before adding the bewildering idea that a building code was “actively under consideration”.  With such ministerial statements, a strong response was eagerly anticipated.

Approximately two years later, around the 20th anniversary of the initial publication of the National Building Code, the Government of Barbados took the strongest possible action unimaginable. Against expert advice, the Government abolished the only national standard designed to help builders construct a house that could survive earthquakes and hurricanes.

This act of utter stupidity placed Barbados in the unenviable position of being perhaps the only country on the planet that did not provide some type of structural building guidance to its residents. Even in the poorest country in the world, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a homeowner could have found more relevant building standards than in Barbados. It is a national shame to which our apathy only encourages our Government to act more irresponsibly.

It simply does not make any sense – neither logical nor political.  Both political administrations participated in the folly.  Why would the BLP administration allow a 14-year unregulated building boom, despite repeated warnings of the fatal consequences?  Why would the DLP administration, despite acknowledging the fragility of Barbadian houses, then withdraw the only national building standard that could protect Barbadian households, despite repeated warnings of the fatal consequences? Should Barbados experience the inevitable major earthquake tomorrow, then these two actions, in retrospect, would be justifiably deemed unforgivable.

Grenville Phillips II is the founder of Solutions Barbados and can be reached at

Notes From a Native Son: Make Xmas the Season for Creating a New Housing Market in Barbados

Hal Austin

Hal Austin

As Christmas approaches, one gift older generations could give younger people now setting out on their careers is a foothold on the housing ladder. In most Western democracies, homeownership has been the key measure of household prosperity and a leading metric of how we are progressing through life. In fact, one of the cornerstones of post-war prosperity has been homeownership. In most developed economies, with the notable exception of Germany, the growth in homeownership has been the driver of household asset accumulation.

Even in those more mature developing economies, such as China and Brazil, fast-growing homeownership is a mark of the developing middle and professional classes. Yet, for reasons that are not yet clear, Barbados has failed to develop a substantial local homeowner class – over and above the extravagances of the Heights and Terraces – even though all the basic conditions are there.

Every year the island produces hundreds of university graduates, hundreds more join the workforce in secure jobs and tens of thousands more, who under the right circumstances would rather own their own homes, are left in the rental sector. One senior member of the present government, when in opposition, told parliament that 30,000 people were in need of housing.

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The Story Of Housing Since 2008 Must Be Told

Submitted by Stephen Williams

Michael Lashley, Minister of Housing

The story of housing since 2008, when the new government took over, needs to be trumpeted. It is a success story; and one that should leave the BLP hanging their heads in shame, after the mess they left at the NHC, Warrens, Coverly, Buckley, and the housing sector in general. Take a bow Michael Lashley, the Ministry of Housing and Lands, the NHC and the DLP! We are PROUD of your performance and achievements.

Look at the wonderful work done at Country Towers, Tweedside Road, Coverly, Work Hall, Ruby, Marchfield, Woodbourne, Foursquare, Six Roads, Lancaster, Cherry Grove, Vineyard, Parish Land, West Terrace, etc. Now, drive through Brittons Hill and look at the magnificent structures that have graced Valery and Forde’s Road – one word aptly describes them – SUPERB.

And, do not forget the 500 lot programme, the very successful $5 per sq. ft. low income land programme, and the NHC tenants of 20 years standing who have gotten their units free of cost.

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DLP’S Housing Programme a Breach of Promise

Edmund Hinkson, BLP St. James North Candidate

The “star housing programme” on the basis of which DLP Parliamentarians are asking Voters to re-elect their Party has not been anywhere nearly as successful as they are promoting it to be. Mr. Edmund Hinkson, the BLP’s St. James North Candidate, in a recent address to his Party’s Women’s League, revealed that a document prepared by the National Housing Corporation indicates that the DLP Government has only completed 374 housing solutions in its first fifty six months of office.

“This works out to be an average of eighty houses per year compared to the promise made in their 2008 Manifesto to build 2,000 housing solutions per year during this term of office. In fact, the Government has not provided a single housing solution through the NHC, in its principal housing agency, in six parishes namely St. James, St. Lucy, St. Joseph, St. Thomas, St. John or St. Andrew” Hinkson pronounced.

This is the present situation, even although this Government is in a position to draw down on a US $30 million international loan which was negotiated by the previous Owen Arthur administration.

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Government Public Private Partnership Housing Strategy Comes Under Attack

Submitted by the People’s Democratic Congress (PDC)

Michael Lashley, Minister of Housing

A local home building firm charges the NHC/Government BDS$1.6 million for building 20 wall bungalow-type homes on so-called crown lands in a particular region in Christ Church.

The Government intends “to sell” these houses to prospective “buyers” on the local commercial housing market for BDS $ 1.8 million. But, being in no position to finance the building of  these houses on its own, the government treacherously lay waits portions of the relevant incomes of the relevant persons, businesses and other entities in this country, and brutally seizes them, to disgracefully diabolically pay this home construction business this BDS  $ 1.6 million.

However, before this happens, this firm goes and draws down on some of its savings and gets some institutional loans as well,  in order to help get the building plans, the workers, the resources, the equipment, the necessary building and building related approvals, and other such things together, so that it would be able to  construct the houses and turn them over to the government at the agreed time.

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The Dream Of Every Barbadian Is To Own A Piece Of The Rock

George Pilgrim, General Secretary, Democratic Labour Party

The dream of every Barbadian is to own a piece of the rock.  Your home for most persons represents your single largest investment and your major asset.  The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) has always recognized and been guided by the philosophy that when you create a society of home owners you have created a solid foundation for economic empowerment and wealth creation.  The National Housing Corporation (NHC) was established on April 1st 1973 by the Democratic Labour Party (DLP).  The DLP has always viewed the NHC’s responsibility as one of providing access to housing for Barbadians from all walks of life and helping Barbadians fulfill their dream of “owning a piece of the rock” and having an asset they can use as security for a business and something they can pass on to their children.

The DLP’s commitment to housing was clear from the outset and during the DLP administration of 1962 and 1976, 3,539 housing solutions of one, two and three bedrooms were provided. Of these housing solutions, 2,714 were constructed for low and middle income earners. We developed Eden Lodge, Friendship Terrace, Wildey Terrace, Lodge Terrace and Wanstead.  This commitment has continued and in 1989 alone, the then DLP administration provided 186 masonry houses, 30 timber, 12 terrace units, while 196 masonry were under construction. In addition, 118 housing solutions were completed under joint venture arrangements. As you will see later, the 1989 output alone was greater than the 594 housing solutions provided by the NHC over the fourteen years of the Owen Arthur led, BLP administration.

The records of the NHC indicate that in early 2008, soon after the current DLP administration assumed office, there were approximately 28,042 persons on the  NHC’s waiting list. The NHC data further indicates that between 2003 and 2008 there was a 250% increase in the number of persons on the waiting list. This surge in the waiting list occurred despite a decade long construction boom, four high profile Ministers of Housing, a much publicized Primary Homes Program, a Settlement 2000 Program, a joint venture program launched in 2003, the aim of which was to provide 860 houses to primarily middle income earners. Of this only 147 were completed. As a matter of fact, Deans Town was launched in 2004 and not a single house was constructed. The Owen Arthur led BLP administration’s lousy record on housing continued with the Hardwood Housing fiasco and the  vesting of 134 parcels of land spread over 30 constituencies ranging in size from 177.5 square meters to 111 828 square metres, but no houses being completed.

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The Right Of The Barbadian To Own Property Under Threat

Submitted by the People’s Democratic Congress (PDC)

Although we in  Barbados are not going to be any time soon seeing the completion of the Population and Housing Census 2010 Report,  most of us can vouchsafe still that far more Barbadians and Caricom resident nationals – not regional and extra-regional visitors – are renting residential commercial properties – apartments, houses, rooms, etc. on a monthly/weekly basis at this juncture more than at any other time, say, in the whole of the post-colonial period of Barbados, and perhaps, too, more than the number of Barbadians that currently own these rented and non-rented residential properties themselves (no 1  contention).

While individual Barbadians rent these commercial residential properties for various reasons, for example, for purposes of achieving independence away from families; for purposes of removing themselves from around estranged partners; for reasons of portraying  status, it is the thought  somehow still – that as more and more individuals and families of the masses and marginal middle classes get into the habit of residential renting – the more it seems that they are unable to have their own homes ( no 2 contention) – that is most unfortunate.

However, we in the PDC will seek to support those two contentions by presenting – at the end of this article – an amount of recorded circumstantial evidence contained in a very brief analysis of the responses provided by persons questioned as part of a person to person  informal non-scientific survey that was conducted by the PDC  in Bridgetown on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. During this time too a total of 23 persons – males and females – young and middle aged – were approached and were found to have their own homes – most with mortgage arrangements in place. They were, of course, found to be outside of the essential scope of this survey, even though their help in partially confirming contention no 1 was needed.

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The Rice-Bowen National Housing Corporation Eruption

Submitted by Bajan Truth

Marilyn Rice-Bowen, sacked NHC Chairperson - Photo credit: Nation Newspaper

Sage advice from the acting P.M. Freundel Stuart about the wisdom of putting ‘vulnerable’ persons in the way of temptation.  The remarks by Marilyn Rice –Bowen raises questions about commitment of the Minister to the promises of the manifesto; it raises questions about what possible deals may have prompted the Minister to plough ahead and give contracts without due process; it raises questions about the regard the DLP has for small black businesses; it raises issues of transparency, integrity, honesty and accountability.

It is appalling that two years later after the promise of change, honesty and accountability that today we the nation of Barbados have strong reasons to doubt the integrity of ministers of its government, who came to office on the strength of corruption on the other side, and a promise of transparency and honesty with legislation to back it up.  When challenged about commenting on Marilyn Rice-Bowen’s allegation the Minister declines to comment.

The broken promises were disappointing, the incompetence disheartening but the dread spectre of possible corruption in less than three years and by the golden boy,  just fuels my fury. All of this after week by week of accusing the other administration, now this.  Here is Marilyn’s press statement in whole.

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Working Hard Is Not Working Smart

Minister of Health Donville Inniss

Minister of Health Donville Inniss


Minister of Housing Michael Lashley

The government of Barbados assumed office with a promise to boldly tackle the demand for housing by Barbadians. On the political platforms the figure 17, 000 applicants who were awaiting housing solutions was bandied around. To the governments credit if we go by media reports the incumbent Minister of Housing Michael Lashley has been a busy man. Several housing developments have have been built and land lots made available for sale to Barbadians. Despite our satisfaction at the housing solutions made available  we have to register our concern about the several housing developments which remain locked-down. In some cases the grass and bush has reached the window sills of the completed development. An example can be seen at the development in Greens, St. George.

Why are the houses in Greens closed for so long when there is a pent-up demand for houses in Barbados?

Donville Inniss is another minister reported to be manfully accepting the challenges within the health ministry. If we are to judge by his several appearances in the media since assuming office, it can be easily said  he is close to rivalling Minister Byer-Suckoo by being Hither, Dither and Yon.  We understand the minister is set to announce shortly whether Barbados will be constructing a new hospital or remodelling the aged Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges confronting Minister Inniss is the alarming rise of non-communicable diseases (CNCDs). Our current health strategy reminds BU of the maxim, prevention is better than cure. We are possibly about to build a state of the art hospital geared among other things to respond to a rising demand.

Would it make more sense for Barbados to articulate a strategic policy to encourage a more healthy lifestyle by our people?

Recent new research in the USA has suggested simply by living in a neighborhood that provides easy opportunities for exercise and healthy eating and fresh fruits and vegetables close by, may cut a person’s chance of developing type 2 diabetes. We wonder if the hardworking Ministers, Lashley and  Inniss would do better to collaborate based on what the new research has concluded. Let us build housing developments in the future which support a healthy lifestyle. By doing so millions of dollars can be saved, more importantly,  Barbadians will enjoy healthier living.

Read a report about the new research.

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Sub-Par Housing Stock In Barbados Rampant In The Absence Of Building Code


With yet another hurricane season on the horizon, a local and prominent Structural Engineer Grenville Phillips III has blogged about his grave concerns regarding the structural integrity of most of the government houses being built. He did not give the private sector development a passing grade either!

Whenever I am driving through a new housing development, I habitually stop and inspect the building construction work. Sometimes I photograph what I observe. I have yet to observe a house being constructed to the minimum structural standards of the Barbados National Building Code.

It is less expensive to build a house to the standards of the Building Code than how builders are currently build houses in Barbados. Therefore, cost is not a valid excuse for non-compliance. Why then do builders build substandard houses?

Source: Weighed In The Balance

We hope that the newly installed government will see the importance of rolling out a building code as soon as possible. Barbados is a country which is densely populated and still a developing country; any havoc to our housing stock would severely deplete our resources in the reconstruction effort. We venture to say that it would set us back many years. In the meantime, tourism which is the life blood of our economy would suffer significantly.

The view into the crystal ball does not look good if we were to be struck by a hurricane!