NBS opens fourth branch in Berbice
- Baksh says Lands and Surveys, Deeds Registry have to be more efficient

By Daniel DaCosta
Stabroek News
April 3, 2000

The New Building Society (NBS) intends to spend some $60 million in this its 60th anniversary year as it continues to expand its services and facilities to communities countrywide.

On Saturday the society opened its newest and fourth branch in Berbice at Lot 82, Public Road, Rose Hall town. Plans are also afoot to establish branches at Lethem in the Rupununi and West Demerara.

Speaking at the mid-morning ceremony which started one hour late, Minister of Housing and Water, Shaik Baksh noted that some $1 billion has been allocated in this year's budget for infrastrucal work in housing schemes countrywide. Government, he noted, would also access US $30 million by year-end for housing while squatting areas will benefit from a World Bank-funded water project. "The New Building Society", he noted, has been leading the way in the housing drive and has forged a partnership with the Ministry of Housing to ensure the nation's housing needs are met.

According to the minister, his ministry is in the process of regularising squatting areas on the Corentyne and countrywide but has been forced to distribute lands for housing without infrastructure because of the prevalence of squatting. "It is not the ideal situation but we are forced to do it." By the end of the year, he disclosed, all housing areas will have water with networks while proper drainage and roads are also likely to be constructed by year-end. Williamsburg Block Six with six hundred house lots is one of three housing areas to benefit from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan.

He, however, expressed concern over the fact that only between 30-40 per cent of the new housing schemes are occupied because people are not accessing funding to build their homes. Baksh issued a call to house lot owners to "make use of the loan facilities available through the NBS. I do not want to see lands remain idle". The housing financing bill, he said, is likely to be passed sometime this month which will significantly benefit people who need to build their own homes.

There is need the minister told the small gathering for the Deeds Registry system to be streamlined. If not it will hamper government's housing drive. Baksh mentioned his intention to write the attorney general on this issue. I am also having problems with the processing and approval of surveys by the Lands and Surveys department, he declared, saying there is need for them to do their job at the department. Baksh also disclosed that he intends to invite the private sector to build model homes for low-income earners in housing areas while announcing that he intends to make available 500-1,000 house lots to the private sector for their employees to build homes. All the firms would have to do is put in basic infrastructure, he explained.

The issue of land titles is also moving apace he announced "but we want people to have a one-stop arrangement. We will go to the areas and fill-up the relevant forms. Then the attorneys will take the completed forms to the Deeds Registry and within 3-4 months people will have the title", he explained.

Chairman of the board of directors of NBS, Ramdial Bhookmohan in his remarks disclosed that "we were able to agree on legislative changes to accommodate some form of document that can be used as collateral so that the lending institutions can be comfortable in issuing loans for housing. This, he said, is to facilitate persons who were allotted house lots and are awaiting their titles/transport.

"As we celebrate the 60th year in operation, NBS has certainly come a long way and is the best in advising and financing your needs", Bhookmohan told the gathering. Noting that the society is working with government on the land title and lease issue, the chairman said "we must establish a building code and see such a code implemented. There is need to bring some decency in the way some contractors and carpenters treat poor home owners". Noting that the situation is out of hand Bhookmohan disclosed that "NBS will soon be embarking on an exercise to bring some standards for contractors and carpenters to follow. When we are satisfied, we will recommend to you a list from which you can choose". According to Bhookmohan both the government and the private sector need to work in tandem to establish standards.

Disclosing that "we hope to embark on pilot schemes in the different locations where houses are to be established", Bhookmohan said that the "Ministry of Housing has made available 25 house lots in the Tucber housing scheme to us on which we will develop low and middle-income family structures of above $1.2 million and $4.5 million respectively". The chairman also referred to the absence of basic infrastructure at housing schemes and opined that "this can inhibit the housing drive if not addressed".

Minister Baksh accompanied by NBS CEO Monica LaBennett, directors and the Mayor of Rose Hall and Corriverton then moved to Anchorville, Port Mourant to turn the sod for the construction of a family-counselling centre to be funded by NBS.