Keeping in tune to its election campaign mantra of ‘Putting People First’ the St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) administration has established a National Housing Assistance Programme (NHAP) aimed to assist the more deprived persons in society.
Hundreds of St Lucians are in line to benefit from a major component of government’s socio-economic programme for the country. The programme aims to ensure that lower income earners and the most vulnerable amongst the population have access to adequate housing.
Notably, NHAP will identify and create an inventory of households with the most urgent housing needs, assess their priority, design suitable assistance packages, and disburse them in the form of technical assistance, building material and/or labour grants.
Prime Minister Philip Pierre was in ‘high spirits’ as he told the gathering that the NHAP is part of the SLP administration’s assurance to put people first.
“Putting people first is not a slogan. It’s a philosophy; it’s a way of life,” declared Prime Minister Pierre, as he addressed a host of government ministers and other representatives at the launch on Wednesday. The $10 million NHAP project – is funded by the Republic of China (Taiwan).
“It isn’t something that we said to win an election. We really mean it, and in the projects that we are going to be delivering to the people of Saint Lucia, the whole ethos and the philosophy of putting people first is going to be clear,” he added.
The prime minister noted that while economic numbers and infrastructure are essential components in the socio-economic development of the nation, the depth of the government’s policies will be putting people, which include everyone, first.
Noting that now is the time for his administration to put its projects into motion, since the elections are over, Pierre reiterated: “We are going to include everyone.”
He urged citizens to rally together for the sake of the country and its people, under the umbrella of doing better for Saint Lucia.
Pierre said the NHAP initiative was not solely geared towards the provision of affordable housing for needy and poor people, but also to address other ‘needed’ things.
“It took the cabinet through the Minister to convince the Taiwanese and the other officials that a more immediate need was to repair the houses of people in this country,” the Minister of Finance disclosed.
The Ministry of Housing and Local Government will be tasked with the responsibility of implementing the initiative, which is focused on providing assistance to the underprivileged by improving their living conditions.
While lauding the project, Housing Minister Richard Frederick said it was imperative for government to take the cue in the provision of affordable housing arrangements for underprivileged persons.
“This government is committed to the task of ensuring that access to affordable housing is a basic need of all the citizenry, but it recognises that interventions on housing in the past did not satisfy the housing woes of the poor and indigent,” asserted Frederick.
“The importance of housing to man remains an unquestionable fact that housing is second to food,” the Housing Minister added.
According to Frederick, at least 20% of St Lucia’s population live in squalid conditions that includes lack of sewerage facilities and pipe-borne water. He said people also continue to live in overcrowded houses and faulty buildings.
“Those seeking assistance would have to satisfy a list of criteria,” he explained. “Households who live in inhumane conditions, low income generating households, persons affected by natural and handmade disasters, and the elderly.”
Frederick adds that the programme will also benefit, “Those who fall within the poverty group, homeless and those who are disabled with such disability preventing them from entering the work force.”
However, the Minister noted, squatters occupying lands will have to get permission from the respective owners to qualify for the housing assistance packages.
Minister for Social Equity, Joachim Henry, stated that the programme will work in tandem with other initiatives under the Ministry’s purview.
“I can speak to the increasing numbers of people coming to the Ministry for assistance of all kinds…and the increasing range of needs being articulated , including housing, to such urgent responses are timely and are required immediately,” he said.
Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Housing, Dr. Cadelia Ambroise said, government has reached a juncture where it necessitates that they provide housing support to the poor and underprivileged in the country. And, she added, the ministry has been inundated with requests from persons seeking housing assistance.
“The activities under the NHAP are structured for implementation as follows – the identification and creation of an inventory of households with the most urgent housing needs; assessment and ranking of this inquiry of emergency; designing of assistance packages most suited to the housing needs or identified households,” Ambroise explained.
She added that the housing assistance project would also provide “disbursement of assistance packages in the form of technical assistance, building materials, and /or labour grants, as well as, monitoring and evaluating the programme.”