IT has been some time now that the perennial issue of house fires caused by the construction of improper structures has become a more tedious and delicate matter for the authorities involved.
And a lot of the residential structures that have been destroyed by fire are due to unplanned house constructions, where houses are built in close proximity to each other.
Notwithstanding that it would take a mammoth task to deal with the situation and it’s a matter of deep concern that affects the families involved in fire accidents, the community at large and the state.
Through social programmes employed by the government, victims are now able to access funds to help them ‘get back on their feet’.
But the housing issues and related infrastructural problems goes far beyond that, and hence, the need for the authorities to assess the planning and construction of houses in some areas. First of all is the poor construction methods utilized in building a structure due to economic constraints and the hastiness to put a roof over the heads of their families.
In the wider social context, it is imperative that every citizen be afforded the opportunity to provide food, clothing and shelter for themselves and their families.
The Constitution of Saint Lucia – the highest order of social justice and rule of law in the land, states, in part – that every citizen, no matter of class (social or economic standing), creed or race is entitled to these rights and privileges that govern the country.
However, are these privileges granted to the fullest extent to facilitate the social and economic welfare of the common man and woman?
Some years ago, the chairman of the Development Control Authority [DCA] sought to address some of these pertinent housing matters.
While noting that it was an onus of the state to rectify these improper housing units with haphazard construction in deplorable locations, the chairman stated that it would require lots of ground work which would have to be undertaken in developmental stages.
We know too well of the housing woes experienced by people in the lower income bracket, which the authorities too are aware of.
Yet people have to look for their survival and in the haste to provide accommodation for the family, they will resort to some drastic measures to get things done.
The DCA chairman also spoke about conducting a review to entail the design of a land and housing reform policy, which, by and large, would redound to the benefit of the residents and better housing structures within the community.
And here is the house fires issues in focus, again. In the event of a fire, or even a passing blaze, houses built in close proximity to each other stand the risk of being engulfed in flames.
The firefighters are out frequently to deal with these situations, at different hours, day or night,definitely a tedious task. And though, in some instances, they are chastised by some members of the public for failing to take on the task more quickly and effectively – these fire officers play a vital role in keeping things under control when these situations occur.
So, as more and more people try to provide some form of accommodation for their families, this issue will have to be reviewed and measures taken to resolve the situation.
Meanwhile, the authorities are taking some steps to deal with the housing situation in the country. Two government parliamentarians have disclosed plans to construct small housing units to alleviate the plight of prospective home owners.
The Central Castries MP and Minister for Housing has revealed plans for construction of five “multi-residential units”, in the Cas En Bas area; while the South Castries MP and Minister for Equity is advocating utilising cost-effective construction techniques to construct ‘modest duplex structures’ to accommodate families.
The problematic housing constructions that are prone to causing fires in the communities and also the issue of abandoned houses in communities, stretching island-wide, from Gros Islet in the north to Vieux Fort in the south. These abandoned structures are inhabited by the homeless who might set off fires which would threaten the houses nearby and cause a lot of damage to homes and properties.
Over the years, the issue of low-cost housing units has not been fully addressed by the Governments. Now maybe the time to relook intothis situation and with corporate partnership and support, devise ways to alleviate this socio-economic plight.
The statistics department recently undertook a comrehensive housing and business survey and data from these reports will be crucial in helping devise a more resourceful and sustainable housing plan for residents in the various communities.