MINUTES OF STATUTORY MEETING OF THE CENTRAL HOUSING AND PLANNING AUTHORITY HELD ON 29th OCTOBER 2015

MINUTES OF STATUTORY MEETING OF THE CENTRAL HOUSING AND PLANNING AUTHORITY HELD ON 29th OCTOBER 2015 AT 12:00 NOON IN THE AUTHORITY’S BOARDROOM- LOT 41 BRICKDAM AND UNITED NATIONS PLACE, STABROEK, GEORGETOWN.

Members Present

Mr H Green – Chairman

Mr R Ali – Member

Mr R Jordan – “

Mr B Lewis – “

Mr M Hutson – “

Mr W Hope – “

Mr N Mangar – “

Mr E Carter – “

Mr M Jacobs – “

Mr D Khan – “

Ms S Luke – “

Ms M Austin – “

Ms W Heywood – “

Dr M Mootoo – “

Ms H Martins – “

Public Officers Present

Ms M Pitt – Chief Executive Officer

Ms H Jordan – Corporate Secretary

Ms D Edwards – Secretary

In Attendance

Mr R Bulkan – Hon. Minister of Communities

Mr E McGarrell – Permanent Secretary

Mr C. Ceres – Technical Advisor

Item No. 1: Call to Order

The Chairman called the meeting to order at 12:00 h. Prayer by Ms. W. Heywood, thereafter the National Pledge was recited.

Item No. 2: Opening Remarks

(a) The Chairman welcomed the members to the meeting including those that were not present at the Inaugural Meeting. He said he hoped that the officers present had returned from leave with renewed vigor and new ideas to guide the future of the agency.

(b) The Chairman then invited the Hon. Minister, Mr. R. Bulkan to address the Board. The Hon. Minister greeted the members and expressed his pleasure at being invited to address the meeting. He apologized for not being at the Inaugural Meeting.

(c) The Hon. Minister said that the presence of the new statutory members was as a result of the election of May 11, 2015. He said that in that election persons voted for change as they were tired of the stench of corruption and, favouritism which characterised government agencies of which the CHPA was not exempt.

He said that the main role and responsibility of the Board was to guide the agency. He cautioned that the Board was not there to perform cosmetic functions and admonished the non-statutory members that they were not there for any such reasons.

He said that he believed that one of the main challenges of the Board is to ensure that urban, rural and regional development occur through prudent planning. He pointed out that there was a certain level of disregard for zoning regulations and the adherence to bad policies which resulted in poor conditions in many areas.

He also spoke to the development of government housing schemes and the allocation process for the distribution of house lots. He broached the issue of the allocation of land which called into question the integrity that characterises that area of operation of CHPA.

He then identified three main issues as priority in the pursuit of the agency’s mandate.
Zoning
Absence of building codes
Indiscriminate occupation of state reserves

He stated that one of the many ills of society was noise nuisance, dust nuisance and the stench from poultry and live stock rearing. He said that there seemed to be no clear distinction between the CHPA, EPA and the NDCs. He opined that CHPA can make an impact in addressing such issues.

He then suggested that the Board, in the discharge of its functions consider, in accordance with the Housing Act Chapter 36:20, Section 10, the establishment of Committees, namely:

1. Planning and Projects Committee
2. Allocation Committee
3. Finance Committee.

He said that the desire of the new administration was that the pace of allocations of lots and houses should be accelerated. He mentioned that someone who was currently pursuing his doctorate had offered to make a presentation to the Board as it relates to the Cummings Lodge Housing Development.

Once again the Hon. Minister congratulated members for being part of the Board of Directors of the Central Housing and Planning Authority.

(d) The Chairman thanked the Hon. Minister for his address and he asked members to bear in mind the key word – change – and the need to be sensitive to the significance of change and that they would have the strength to adhere to change.

Comments were invited from the members as well as officers. The Chairman opined that the officers’ views were important to this change to set the country on the right path.

(e) Mr. Khan said that people in Anna Regina have been occupying reserves and would like the government to look into the matter. The Hon. Minister said that his office made contact with the Regional Executive Officer and the matter was being investigated.

(f) The CEO informed the Board that the sea defence reserves came under the Sea Defence Board and should there be any illegal activities, it should be dealt with by that body. She said CHPA would, along with the other agencies, collaborate to be able to make informed decisions.

(g) The Chairman said that the contention was who permits or prohibits the occupation of the sea defence reserves. The CEO said that whether the reserves were under the purview of the NDCs or the Town Councils there needs to be better enforcement of the relevant Acts.

(h) The Hon Minister then introduced Mr. Charles Ceres, who was Technical Advisor to the agency and was available to be a member of the Planning and Projects Committee.

(i) Mr. Ceres pointed out that the lots that were sold had certain conditions attached that were mandatory, in that, allottees were to occupy the lot within a stipulated time frame; also the lots were not to be sold before a ten-year period had elapsed. He said that he had observed that there were lots of sign posts with ‘for sale’ marked on them. He inquired as to what was CHPA doing to reclaim those lands.

(j) The Hon. Minister said that the lines were blurred between and among the Local Democratic Organs, EPA, GL&SC and CHPA. He said CHPA has been guilty, either by acts of omission or commission, for the change in the landscape of the city over the decades. He said that there was need to identify things that were done wrong and to avoid those ill practices so as to be able to restore the functionality of the Ministry.

(k) Mr. Ali proffered that there needs to be a holistic picture of the operations of the agency or a lot of time would be spent discussing and trying to understand the interlinking roles of the Sea Defence Board, EPA and Housing and other related bodies. He said that the Board should be informed of the housing needs in the various areas and to ascertain in what areas was housing needed the most, what was the number of housing units there are currently, if not, he opined that the Board would be required to function without a clear understanding of the agency’s current position and how it operates.

(l) At this time the Permanent Secretary acknowledged issues raised by Mr Ali. However he explained there was a paucity of relevant and accurate data to:

advance the housing policy and plan. The housing profile process had been held up because the census for 2012 had not been released, and as such our housing stock in Guyana is truly an issue.
utilise resources so as to determine the housing stock and as such the Ministry was seeking assistance from UN Habitat. He said that there was an information gap that needed to close in order to deal some of the issues raised.

(m) The CEO said that to calculate housing demand there must be specific data, since demand was tied to demographics, rate of household formation and so on. She then asked whether the agency should cease and acquire all the relevant information necessary for the housing policy or to gather information as a parallel activity.

(n) The Hon. Minister opined that now that the Board understands its role, to identify what were the broad issues and to give strategic guidance to decision making. In addition to the comments made, the Hon. Minister reiterated that in the execution of its functions the Ministry was a willing partner. He said that whatever schemes and projects were on stream or even now starting, would have to be accelerated parallel to ascertaining the data to inform the housing policy.

(o) Mr. Ali opined that the data needed to help form the housing policy could be had from GPL who has a wealth of information on households.

(p) The Chairman said that the challenge about the limited data on the housing stock was not a new phenomenon. He then proposed that the agency submit a list of all allocations for housing for the past 10 years and to try to ascertain from allottees whether the lots have been optimally occupied. He opined that there was a severe housing shortage.

(q) Mr. Jacobs said that he was pleased to note that there was an enforcement unit in the agency. However, he was surprised that the agency did not have a resident statistician who would be able to gather and process the relevant data in terms of population, migration and deaths, whether an applicant owned property.

(r) The Chairman said there would not be precision in these matters since the data might not represent the actual situation on ground.

(s) Ms. Martins said the agency should assess the needs of the people and their current positions since with new investments in Guyana, persons were using their house lots for manufacturing purposes. In addition, she opined that there could be housing schemes where there was no employment and as such persons would not be able to pay for their lots.

(t) Mr. Ceres said that he had suggested that there was need for a Stakeholder Consultation Unit, for instance, to ascertain the justification for the Cummings Lodge Housing Scheme.

(u) The Permanent Secretary agreed that there must be stakeholder consultation. However, he pointed that there was no statistician resident at CHPA and indeed the agency would have to buy into such so as to have stakeholder analysis, the intent of which would be to lead and give oversight to the agency.

(v) Dr. Mootoo said that she had perused the listing submitted and recognised that the percentage of lots occupied was less than fifty percent (50%) in most schemes. She enquired whether the cause for such low occupancy was because CHPA was establishing housing schemes in the wrong areas.

(w)The CEO said that the provision of infrastructure lagged and as such created a gap in the occupancy level. She said one such factor was that GPL was not able to provide electricity in a timely manner. However, the current policy of the agency was to allocate serviced lots.

(x) Mr. Ali opined that GPL did not have the capacity to electrify all the new housing schemes. However, notwithstanding that, he suggested that the agency look at all housing available: housing and businesses across the nation and request GPL to supply such data. He said that it was important that the agency try to get enough data to inform their Policy Paper and to address the many issues raised.

(y) The Chairman requested an analysis of all lands sold by CHPA over a period of ten (10) years. It should also include the cost for the land. The CEO said that there was information on the GIS data base for 102 areas and the agency would update occupancy at least twice a year. Ms. Martins requested to have the GIS data on areas referred by the CEO who said that she would try to get the information.

(z) The Hon. Minister said that there were many challenges but he cautioned that the members must move forward with the mandate of the Board. He pointed out that as Minister, he would at all times duly respect the work of the Board and assured them of the Ministry’s full cooperation and collaboration.

Item No.3: Consideration of Financial Report.

(a) The Financial Report for the reporting period April – September 2015, was presented by Mr. R Abrahim, Accountant.

He reported the following.

Revenue Totaled – $1.617B
Sale of Land – $1.334B

Sale of Turn Key House – $222.6M

Transport Fees – $11.4M

Other Revenue Sources – $48.7M

One Stop Shop – Allocation of House Lots
Stewartville, WCD – $17.7m

Cummings Lodge, ECD – $52.1M

Expenditure Totaled – $$1.021B
Housing fund Projects – $513.3M

Employment Costs – $145.0M

Administration Costs – $79.0M

1000 Homes Project – $211.9M

Other Housing fund totaled – $31.0M

Inclusive of payment for survey works done.

Total Investments to date – $4.5B
Interest on Investment – $12.3M

Debt collection Unit
Collected from Allottees with outstanding Payments – $45.8M

Comments

(a) The Chairman enquired whether there is a policy used to determine the cost of raw land to potential developers. The Accountant said there was no such policy. The Chairman then asked what would be the basis for the Board to identify the cost of land in a particular area. In other words, were there criteria which guided the agency in determining the cost for a unit of land to a developer.

(b) The CEO said that the cost of land per acre was a Cabinet decision. However, the agency has a pricing policy. The Chairman, concluded that there were no scientific pricing criteria to guide the agency, the Minister or Cabinet, in terms of pricing for land. He then reiterated the request for the analysis of all allocations for the last ten years inclusive of the purpose for which the land was sold, the price, the status of occupancy. The Chairman then asked whether the conditions under which persons bought land were still extant. The CEO replied in the affirmative.

(c) Mr. Ali reiterated that in order to fully understand and grasp what was presented in the Financial Report the Board need to have contextual understanding of the CHPA current position. He said that the report was not enough to inform the Board as to the workings of the CHPA’S finances. Mr. Khan said that is why the Finance Committee would be vital to the agency.

He suggested that there should be a session where the officers would present to the Board the important areas of their departments’ work so that the Board could get a clear understanding of the context in which the agency operates, such as what was its potential income, how the monies were being used and other relevant information.

(e) Mr. Jacobs suggested that the number of units of land sold in relation to the amount of monies reported could be included in the financial report.

(f) Mr. Hope enquired whether the monies received under revenue were from the Consolidated Fund or from the Ministry of Finance. The Accountant said that the agency had not received any subvention from government for 2015. However, they had received monies for capital projects. The Board was informed that staff salary, office expenses and housing fund projects were funded from the Housing Fund.

(g) At this juncture the Accountant presented to the Board a Resolution to add the Chairman and Ms. Denise King-Tudor, Director of Operations as signatories to the CHPA’s Bank Accounts. The Board was informed that the Banks required only two authorized signatories. However, the Housing Act stipulates that there should be three signatories to the Bank Accounts.

(h) The Chairman suggested that an alternate signatory to Chairman should be named in the event that the he was out of the jurisdiction. The Corporate Secretary said that out of five signatories to the Bank Accounts any two signatories could be used, since the Housing Act did not provide for an alternate signatory.

(i) Dr. Mootoo suggested that the Chairman of the Finance Committee could be the alternate signatory. Mr. Jordan was also proposed as the alternate signatory.

(j) The Chairman said that an alternate should be identified and the Bank be so informed. He then proposed Mr. Ronald Ali be the alternate signatory subject to his acceptance, if not Mr. Ranwell Jordan would be the alternate signatory.

(l) The Chairman said that reports presented by officers must be signed.

Item No.4: Consideration of Reports: April – September 2015.

(a) The CEO gave a summary of the activities of the agency for the period April – September 2015 in its pursuit of achieving the targets set in the 2015 Work Programme.

During the period of reporting, the Second Low Income Settlement Programme was successfully closed out on June 30, 2015 which brought an end of the six year implementation of a programme funded by IDB for $US $27.9M. This programme targeted low income areas.

The life of the previous Board ended on June 30, 2015. Performance was generally commendable although there was a slow down during the period of National elections and with the change of administration.

During the reporting period work commenced on the drafting of the strategic direction for the agency and a review of the vision and mission to align them with the aspirations and objectives of the new administration.

The Strategic Framework for 2016 – 2020 formed the basis for setting strategic objectives for the agency within a monitoring and evaluation framework.

The Community Development Department of the agency continued to expand as evident in the successful completion of the Hinterland Pilot Programme in particular.

Achievements by Departments

Development Planning Unit

(a) Amended (4) planning design layout for New Housing Schemes. The Unit also commenced the preparation of a design layout for the regularisation of Block ‘SS’ Sophia (Squatting Area)

Completed Strategy for the following Community Development plans as well as for (17) Communities within the East Bank Development Project (list of communities included in report.)
Completed strategy preparation for Urban Development Plans for Lethem, Bartica, Mabaruma and Madhia.

(b) Survey Unit engaged in the identification of (1,596) lots in several GOG Housing Schemes in Regions 3,4,5,6 and 10. Some survey plans were completed while others are at various stages of completion. Squatter Regularisation Surveys were also carried out.

(c) The GIS Unit created geo databases for GOG Housing Schemes. Eighteen (18) cadastral plans of GOG housing scheme were digitised and geo databases created for the target of 25 for 2015. The Unit continued to update GIS map portfolio with new maps created.

There was also the GIS and MIS integration more specifically with the conversion of geo database for twenty five housing schemes.

(d) The Development Facilitation Unit achieved the following for the period under review:

Planning Application received – 463
Applications referred to the Fire Departments – 92
Applications returned from the Fire Departments – 63
Processing fees totaled – $6,024,000

Comments

(a) Ms. Martins asked whether there were areas that could be used where people could socialize, in other words, have rum shops, hotels and grocery shops and such like. Further, she pointed out that in some communities the drains are not correctly set and maintained and as such persons were subject to diseases. She said that it was important to have proper drainage.

(b) The CEO said that such areas alluded to were defined as neighbourhood centres. She then explained that initially earthen drains were dug, however the NDCs needed to maintain the drains and drainage systems via the levying of rates and taxes.

(c) Ms. Martins pointed out that there were lands owned by private developers in Providence that were not developed or occupied. In her opinion persons might not be able to pay the price for those lands sold by the private developers. The CEO explained that based on the conditions under which those lands were sold, those developers were given until February 2016 to develop their lands if not, those lands would have to be re-conveyed to the government.

(d) The CEO also mentioned that the agency would be repossessing core houses from persons who have not occupied and would have breached their agreement. Out of the 400 core houses constructed, 69 persons have not yet occupied. Mr. Jacobs enquired whether any analysis was done as to the reasons for the beneficiaries not occupying the houses.

(e) The Corporate Secretary said that some of the reasons received were allocations were made in a different region from which they worked, children were going to school in the areas in which they currently lived, and as such transportation cost was prohibitive, among other things.

(f) Ms. Luke asked what would be the legal implications for repossessing the core houses, since the land belonged to the beneficiaries. The Corporate Secretary said that the alternative was that CHPA would have to move to the court since the beneficiaries would have been in breach of the terms and conditions. She said that persons would have indicated that due to financial constraints they were unable to build. The question was asked whether the applicants would be refunded. The CEO said that they would be refunded.

(g) At this point Ms. Heywood asked whether Environment Health Officers should be allowed to draw plans. The opinion of the Board was that, it would be a conflict of interest since it was the Health Officers who had to certify the plans at the level of the Town Council. However, it was pointed out that the Town Council should decide whether or not they would allow the Health Officers to draw plans in their capacity as Health Officer.

She also mentioned that a developer was not building according to plans submitted to the Town Council and as such the Council did not send the applications to CHPA. The Secretary said that the Town Council was obligated to send the application to CHPA with an explanation for the Council’s objections.

She also mentioned that a business man had constructed a moveable structure in Hikel Alley, New Amsterdam, and as such the Town Council would like to be advised as to what action could be taken. The Chairman said that he had spoken to the Town Clerk and had advised that, that was a matter for the Town Council.

(h) At this point, with respect to time, the CEO put forward that the Board peruse the report and could seek clarification or share comments subsequently. The Board agreed.

Item No. 5: Correspondence

(a) The Chairman asked how many Attorneys did work on behalf of CHPA. The Secretary said that currently there were three attorneys, namely: Mr. Robert Ramcharran, Mr. Adrian Anamayah and Mr Ramesh Rajkumar. He asked whether any correspondence had been received expressing interest in executing legal services for the agency.

(b) The Corporate Secretary said that correspondence had been received from Attorneys James Bond and Bishwaishwar Ramsaroop offering legal services to the CHPA.

(c) The Chairman said that Mr. Ramsaroop was very knowledgeable in housing matters and as such he recommended that Mr Bishwaishwar Ramsaroop be formally included in the list of Attorneys to do legal work for CHPA.

Item No. 6: Any Other Business

(a) The Chairman raised the issue of the alleged theft that had occurred at the CHPA’s Regional Housing Office located in Region #6 and enquired as to whether any action was taken.

(b) The Human Resource Manager explained that on Sunday she had received a telephone call indicating that there was a break in at the Regional Housing Office early the Sunday morning, and a safe containing titles and transports had been removed. On Monday, she said that a team consisting: Mr. David Lord, Housing Enforcement Officer, Mr. Garnett from the CID, Mr. R. Backer from the Ministry of the Presidency and the Police from Berbice District visited the office.

(c) The Chairman asked whether any documents were recovered. The Human Resource Manager said that nothing had been recovered. However, it was pointed out that the titles and transports were replaceable since there are records of such at the Deeds and Land Registries.

(d) The Chairman asked whether any staff had been suspended or dismissed. The HRM said that in the absence of a police report no action was taken.

(e) The Chairman requested that the CEO pursue the matter since from his information it seemed as though the breakage was intentional. He said that the matter must not be left to languish and to indicate whether disciplinary action was necessary.

(f) The Chairman then went on to inform the Board of a demolition exercise which had been initiated by CHPA against a resident in Lethem. He said that the officer seemed to be very selective in the demolition exercise. The Chairman requested that the CEO conduct a full investigation.

(g) The Chairman broached the subject of zoning and said that would need the technical input of the Authority to review the issue of zoning in the ten regions or sub regions. He said that the Board should give thought about whether to impose the traditional zoning pattern in Georgetown and other areas, or to re-look at the zoning regulations.

The Chairman cited the Queenstown area, in Georgetown where persons had constructed non-residential structures and he put forward whether the zoning regulations should be enforced in traditional areas so as to have some measure of discipline.

(h) Ms Martins said that the zoning regulations for areas with heritage sites in Georgetown needed to be enforced. She cited Paramaribo as a good example of the perseveration of heritage sites. She opined that Suriname’s model could be studied and possibly be adopted. She pointed out that tourism education should be encouraged. Further, she said that the agency should consider having entertainment in a contextual setting that would be away from residential areas.

(i) Mr Hutson opined that the mixing of land uses was too far gone to implement traditional zoning regulations. He said that new zoning regulations should be put in place.

(j) The Chairman suggested that funding should be allocated to the Heritage Society and the National Trust so that these entities would be able to stop persons from demolishing buildings and putting up concrete structures.

(k) Mr Carter said that the external facade should be retained even if there were internal alterations to the building. He pointed out that National Trust declared eight (8) legal heritage sites out of over a hundred such sites.

(l) The Chairman cited the Cuba scenario where heritage buildings were preserved and persons were not allowed to deface those buildings. He said that permission should not be granted for any building to be constructed that would violate the UNESCO Status for heritage buildings.

(m) At this point Mr Edinboro, Chief Development Planner told the Board that there was a total break-down of planning systems in Guyana. He said that there were once rigid requirements for buildings in Georgetown and as such some areas were designated conservation areas.

However, there seemed to be continuous tension between the need for control and the interests of private developers. There was no proper and effective control. He opined that developers do not seem to appreciate the finer aspects of designs. What was needed, he said was that designs should be done by professional certified architects and engineers.

The CDP said that a restudy of planning for Georgetown is needed and to have stronger enforcement for persons to get an appreciation for planning at the local level.

(n) Mr Jacobs suggested that the agency create a policy that could eventually become law where designs drawings must be done by architects registered by CHPA or some other recognised body.

(o) The CDP said that CHPA had no legal standing to implement such a policy and also it was not the mandate of the CHPA. However, there were standards and policies that are implemented.

The CDP then cited the issue of the proposed construction at Church and Carmichael Streets. He informed the Board that in collaboration with the National Trust there was discussion with the developer on what would be required of him since his proposed construction would have been in close proximity to the St George’s Cathedral – a heritage site.

The CDP gave another example of consultation with the developers of the Demico outlet at the corners of Quamina and Main streets where there they were required to put certain designs to fit in with the traditional character of the area. The CDP said there was some small amount of success in that area.

(p) Because of time the Chairman asked that the meeting be adjourned and that those matters that were not dealt with be put on the agenda for the next statutory meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 4:20 p.m.

Moved: Seconded:

Secretary: Chairman:

CENTRAL HOUSING AND PLANNING AUTHORITY

Lot 41 Brickdam and United Nations Place

Stabroek, Georgetown

19TH November 2015

Chairman and Board Members

CHPA

Dear Sir/Madam

Re: Statutory Meeting of the Central Housing and Planning Authority

Notice is hereby given for a Statutory Meeting of the Central Housing and Planning Authority scheduled for the THURSDAY 26th November, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. in the Central Housing and Planning Authority Boardroom, Head Office, 41 Brickdam and United Nations Place, Stabroek, Georgetown.

The Agenda is as follows:

Call to Order, Prayer and National Pledge
Opening Remarks by Chairman
Consideration and Adoption of Statutory Minutes
Consideration of Sub-Committees
Consideration of Financial Report
Consideration of Progress Reports – October 2015
Consideration for the Grant of Incremental Credit for Master’s Qualification (previously circulated)
Report on:
a. Alledged pilferage at the Regional Housing Office, Region #6

b. Demolition of Building in Lethem, Region #9

9. Correspondence

10. Any Other Business and Closure

Please make every effort to attend.

Sincerely,

…………………………..

Secretary, Central Housing and Planning Authority

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