Prior to taking office the Briceno administration had promised the construction of hundreds of affordable houses particularly for first time owners. Today the opposition asked Minister of Housing Julius Espat to provide an update on where the ministry currently is in fulfilling the PUP’s manifesto promise.
Hon. Julius Espat, Minister of Infrastructure Development and Housing: “I investigated in the western region of the country why is it that we can’t build houses ? Well it is because of ex ministers abusing their power to be able to acquire thousands of properties that were supposed to be given out to people. I wonder why I can’t build houses in Belama when two ministers over there have worked out a deal that one of their friends can get sixteen acres in the most densely populated area of the city- twenty six acres- that is one of the reasons we have not been able to start looking at building houses in Belama. After the analysis of trying to find out where is it that we can possibly build homes for people on government land with consultation with the Lands Department it has been extremely difficult to identify crown land in most of the constituencies. Orange Walk for example one thousand six hundred acres went to one man who was a minister so it makes the programming difficult. To be able to do proper housing Madam Speaker one has to do proper planning. We are in the phase of planning, Madam Speaker. We did not have one single architect or engineer that we inherited under the Ministry of Housing. I have had to look at architects that were in the Ministry of Works and pull them across to be able to start the planning process to be able to get houses built. I can gladly report Madam Speaker that we have started that process, that two designs have already passed the design development phase and they’re now in the construction document phase and they are in the process of getting bill of quantities prepared so that we can have a picture, a reality, numbers that we can present to Cabinet to see how we move forward. In the meantime Madam Speaker we have also been in contact with foreign lending institution to see if the housing program is part of the portfolio that they would utilize to help Belize. I can gladly say Madam Speaker that conversation with various lending institutions they are now opening their doors when it pertains to housing because of the crisis that this country is facing under COVID and because the economic crisis that other countries are facing Madam Speaker. We are also having conversations with the private sector in Belize Madam Speaker so we can look at possible private public partnerships in how to get housing done. We are also speaking specifically to the private sector Madam Speaker so that when the houses that we do, which are social program type houses do not compete with the private sector, we’re looking at the private sector to see if we can approach the lending institutions domestically to see if we can achieve better rates so that we can have housing. So the reality is Madam Speaker our hands are tied by corruption in the past, our hands are tied because there is minimal access to land because most of the viable lands for expansion of villages and towns have been gobbled up by past ministers and their side people Madam Speaker, that is all a fact.”