Low-income families at Sophia receive keys to core homes, as $51M multipurpose facility commissioned

The Ministry of Housing and Water through the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CHPA) commissioned a $51.5 million multipurpose facility at Section ‘C’ Turkeyen (Sophia), Georgetown on Friday. Additionally, six (6) low-income families also received the keys to their brand-new Core Homes valued at approximately $4 million each and twenty-two (22) Home Improvement Subsidy beneficiaries were presented their completion certificates. Each subsidy is no more than $500,000 for building materials to enhance their homes.

These initiatives were executed under the US$28 million Adequate Housing and Urban Accessibility Programme (AHUAP), funded by the Inter-American Bank (IDB). At the commissioning ceremony were Minister of Housing and Water, Hon. Collin Croal; Minister within the Ministry of Housing, Hon. Susan Rodrigues; Chief Executive Officer of the Central Housing and Planning Authority, Mr. Sherwyn Greaves; IBD Country Representative (ag), Ms. Lorena Solórzano-Salazar and other officials.

Minister Croal in his address stated that AHUAP is designed to improve the lives of low-income Guyanese in urban and peri-urban Georgetown. This is done through the provision of better access to housing and infrastructure. The Minister underscored that over $942 million has been expended thus far in Sophia, including the new core homes and commissioned facility.

“We want to ensure that the area you live is an environment that is healthy and safe for your families,” Minister Croal said. He further stated, “we want the upliftment of our country and our people and you must feel it, you must feel that you are a part of this beautiful country called Guyana”.

Minister Rodrigues also noted that the government will work to ensure that the negative stigma attached to Sophia is removed by transforming the community through infrastructure, providing job opportunities and more sustainable housing options.

“Sophia has changed remarkably […] It has improved tremendously over the years and now that you have a government that is accelerating development, we want to see Sophia change even more […] and we want everybody in here to be able to have equal access to government services and to have their quality of life improved,” affirmed Minister Rodrigues.

The core homes are single-family units measuring about 400 square feet, with concrete blocks for outer walls and floors, basic doors, windows, electrical wiring, water connections etc. The units are designed to meet basic standards that a family can move into and affordably expand over time. Each beneficiary is only required to contribute a sum of $100,000 towards the cost of the home. Meanwhile, the multipurpose facility, which was constructed using labour from the area, is a concrete structure measuring approximately 30 ft x 50 ft. Works were also done for the upgrading of the playground, playpen area, part pavilion, basketball court, construction of a fence and the installation of solar street lights. It will serve all areas within the boundaries of Sophia. Minister Croal urged the management committee of the multipurpose facility to ensure it is managed properly and utilized for social, education and economic activities.

Core Home beneficiary, Ms. Himattie Kishun, whose daughter has a disability, praised the government’s initiative, as they were living in an old wooden house.

“I must say thanks for what President Irfaan Ali is doing for poor people,” said Ms. Kishun. She added, “I am living in Sophia for 22 years since it had mud dam and I am very very happy at this moment. […] I live with my disabled daughter. It would make a lot of change in my life, I am very thankful for that”.

CHPA’s CEO, Mr. Greaves stated that some 50 Sophia residents have been selected to benefit from the Core Home initiative, including 31 female-headed households. This represents 20 per cent of the overall 250 homes being built in different communities in Region Three and Four. The other 44 homes are at varying stages of completion. Further, some 130 Sophia residents will also benefit from a total of 2,000 home improvement subsidies. So far, 111 residents have received the materials, 35 have completed works and another 76 persons are currently executing works. Approximately 17.5 km roads were upgraded to asphaltic concrete, 1.8 km of drains built, 2 km of sidewalks were constructed, 155 concrete culverts built, 100 solar/LED lights installed and macro and micro drains cleaned, among other initiatives. In her remarks, the IDB Country Representative (ag), Mrs. Solórzano-Salazar lauded the government for ensuring that persons within vulnerable groups such as women and persons living with disabilities benefit.

Mrs. Solórzano-Salazar stated, “acknowledging the needs to address vulnerable populations I would say is also relevant in this programme, to promote inclusivity [and] prioritizing households led by single-parents, female heads and people with disabilities [and…] that I will congratulate the government of Guyana for giving solutions to”.

The AHUAP boundary encompasses, the La Parfaite Harmonie Housing Development in Region Three, Georgetown to Grove on the East Bank of Demerara, Region Four; from Georgetown to La Bonne Intention and nineteen other select communities up to Victoria on the East Coast of Demerara, Region Four. The Ministry is also engaging IDB on the increase of the Home Improvement Subsidy given the rise of cost in building materials and the further expansion of its boundaries.