Hon Reginald Austrie, Dominica’s Housing Minister for 20 years, says he is angered by criticism of Government’s housing programme.
Speaking at a ceremony where 122 economically-challenged families became homeowners, Hon Austrie said the Labour Party government was the first to undertake the task of rehousing Dominica’s less fortunate.
“There were governments before this government and the housing conditions in this country were always bad,” he stated citing a report from a housing survey conducted around 1998-1999.
“When we got into government, we met a report that 5,000 homes in Dominica were badly in need of repair…We were behind on our housing stock by 10,000 homes.”
Minister Austrie emphasized, “It was this government who introduced the Ministry of Housing… This Government recognized that we had to do something about the housing situation.”
He addressed the new homeowners with an impassioned account of the DLP Government’s mission to elevate the standard of living for thousands in Dominica.
“I have been Housing Minister for 20 years so I can speak firsthand about what I had to deal with. We had people living on dirt floors, people whose houses were covered with trash, people whose houses were made of codfish boxes, people who had 5-7 children in a one-bedroom house, people with no washrooms, no toilets, no water…”
Minister Austrie continued, “This is what the Dominica Labour Party met when it came into government. This is what moved this government to institute the Housing Revolution to begin the process…and put some pride and dignity in the lives of the people of this country.”
Aside from building homes and renovating homes at no cost to those who could not afford decent housing, interventions also included the Squatter Regularization Programme, reductions in the cost of saleable State land and concessionary financing at the AID Bank and the Government Housing Loans Board for those who could qualify for loans.
The DLP Government embarked on the Housing Revolution Programme in 2007 with support from the Venezuelan government through the ALBA agreement established by the now-deceased Hugo Chavez.
The first to be rehoused were the terminally ill, those on public assistance, persons with disabilities, the elderly, single female headed households, and those displaced by fire and disaster.
“So when I hear people criticizing this policy, it really turns me off and gets me very, very angry,” Hon Austrie effused.