Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace says he is uncomfortable with persons continuing to live at the government’s housing project in Clare Valley, where a house collapsed last month.
“I am very uncomfortable with people having to remain in those houses while whatever investigation is taking place is being carried out,” he said on his weekly radio programme on Monday.
Eustace asked whether the findings of a soil expert from Trinidad who visited the area last week has been presented to the government and to homeowners, explaining why they should continue to live there.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Works, Sen. Julian Francis told homeowners at a meeting recently that they should not vacate their homes, and restated the government’s pledge to fix the houses.
Among other things, homeowners have complained that the two- and three-bedroom concrete houses are shaking.
Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has said that the three-bedroom concrete house collapsed as a result of poor engineering, poor drainage, and the type of soil where they houses are built.
But Eustace called for a quick resolution of the situation.
“They are living under a threat and the speedier we deal with this matter, the better it is for all concerned. … It is a very vexing issue,” Eustace said .
Homeowners took mortgages and the state-owned Housing and Land Development Corporation (HLDC) built them the low- and middle-income houses.
But Eustace said that homeowners did not seem to have much say in the building of the houses, since they have since said that some of them were barred from visiting the site during construction, after they complained about the quality of the work.
“The fact remains that one house has collapsed and there are complaints about the other houses. People still have to pay their mortgages at the bank. The bank is going to want to get their money. What is going to be done about that? What role will the Housing and Land Development Corporation play in that?” Eustace said.
Eustace, an economist, said he is not sure what is the current value of the houses after one collapsed.
“I don’t know how much value is left on those houses, because nobody would want to buy them again. If you want to sell it now, nobody will buy it, because the place is dangerous,” he said.
“The asset will never appreciate. It is not even worth what it was worth two weeks ago,” he said, adding, “So if somebody for instance want to sell there, … there would be no buyers for those properties.
“So, just imagine paying a mortgage for a property, which really don’t have much value anymore. But that’s what it boils down to in financial terms,” Eustace said.
A homeowner told I-Witness News recently that not only does he believe that persons will not want to buy the houses, but also that homeowners will not attract tenants should they complete and rent the ground floors of the houses.
Eustace said the houses will not have any value even after the mortgage is paid.
“Because you can’t sell those houses, given the reputation and all that has happened. Who is going to buy them? … And who is going to finance anybody who wants to buy them? No bank ain’t going to touch that either,” he said.
He said that potential homeowners “will get trouble with some of the banks” when trying to get mortgages to buy homes in other locations where the government is building similar houses.
“You can’t sell the property, because nobody in their right mind would want to buy one of those properties. So, where do we stand?” he said.