Features — 18 July 2018
BCC’s impressive housing initiative

We shouldn’t let it just go by, this initiative by the Belize City Council (BCC) to design a low cost house for people who want to own a home but are not exactly rolling in cash. There’s a Ministry of Housing (national government), and/so the business of getting houses built is not really the territory of municipal government. But the housing situation in Belize being so dire, and there not being much of a national response, someone had to light a candle. The BCC deserves big points for the effort.

A signature piece of the PUP manifesto, 1998-2003, was to see the construction of 10,000 houses in the country. I recall that the Cuban government stepped up to assist, with a factory that produced a house we called the Cubel. I never saw the Cubel house “factory” at work, but I know the factories (2?) were here because I read about it. The Cubels couldn’t have caught on though, because after a time there wasn’t much discussion about them.

I am not aware of any explanation for the Cubels not becoming the “rage” in the construction business. We were told that they were sturdy houses, and not so costly, and quick to build. I have this clip from Channel Five in November 2000. Bradley (Minister Richard Bradley) says the Cubel housing project has allowed his ministry to reduce the cost of a three-bedroom house from forty-five thousand to thirty thousand dollars.

We know that many Belizean families have a huge bias for RK Beans. There are a number of red beans, very delicious, and beans of other colors, and peas, that are better adapted to our climate, and so cheaper to produce. But Belizeans are hooked on R.K. Did Belizean homeowners not like the Cubels?

It is impossible to believe that the Cubels weren’t as sturdy, and didn’t cost less to construct, than the regular ferro-concrete houses built in our country. Those in charge must have done some “homework” before importing the factories. Hn, we know how wicked the PUP can be. Did the Cubels cut into the hustle of party favorites? Did Belizean builders resist learning the technology to build the Cubels? Or was the plan just to construct a few houses of that type? There are just too many unanswered questions in Belize.

The cost of house building materials, imported and local, keeps going up. I am told that a ferro-concrete house is upwards of $100 per square foot at this time.But that might be costing for houses that are not bungalow types. If it’s $100 per square foot for a bungalow, our next generation in the cities and towns will do a lot of sleeping under the stars.

Some good years ago, Bill Lindo had advised that our government encourage some entrepreneurs to set up a cement factory. There are detractors who say making cement is an environmental disaster. But the prime case against a local cement factory came from people who know the technology. They said our economy is too small to support it. That is a question that really should be put through the grinders.

If we stopped using asphalt and only made cement roads, that would increase the need for cement. The savings on foreign exchange, if we manufactured cement instead of importing it, is not to be sneezed at. It can’t be so far out there that crunching the numbers is a complete waste of time.

If it isn’t feasible to go the whole hog on cement, surely we can develop some cost effective process to put all the high quality limestone we have in the country to use in the construction business. People build houses out of mud, and they last a long time. Houses made of wood do not have the life of houses made out of ferro-concrete, but treated lumber is pretty durable. Unfortunately, lumber is getting more costly everyday. Color me hopeful, but I know some brilliant minds in the science field who, with a little government support, could develop a material that has the life of wood, or more, but costs less.

Belize is supposed to be going anti-plastic, and that’s great, but there’ll still be a lot of that pervasive garbage about. I hear a foreign government has sponsored some scientists to put to use the waste plastic in the environment. As we speak, those scientists are boiling plastic, which they hope to pelletize and use in road building. The reports are that the plastic will make the roads last longer. Wonderful!

Sticking with the scientists, it shouldn’t be that we be so at the mercy of marketers. There are a number of cements in Belize and all regular folk have to go by is what’s written on the bags. Our people should run tests and advise us about the quality of the products. I have my personal bias on cement. My bias says that all other cements are inferior to the one I prefer.

Coming back to wood, we like to point the finger at the old colonial master, run them down about all their exploitation of the forest. Nobody’s all bad. I am aware that they did some planting of pine trees. And what have we done? Belize has been self-governed since the 1960’s, and we’ve been an independent country since 1981. Really, how much reforesting have we done? Belize’s leadership is very slek.

Oh, that lik is definitely not for the people at the Forestry Department. It’s an expensive initiative, to replant the pine, and the mahogany, and the zericote, and that wood that they were stealing from the forests of Toledo. The Forestry Department can’t do much replanting with the pilinki allocation they get from the government.

I haven’t heard anything from the BCC about drainage, but I heard one of my cousins discussing with contractors about lifting her home at Kings Park. A lot of houses in Kings Park, and other places in Belize City, will have to be lifted. It is a fact that sea levels are rising, and it is a fact that houses that don’t sit on piles, sink slowly, over time. The solution has to be drainage.

A few streets in Kings Park should give up their two-way status. Half the selected streets should give way to canals. After taking off the hard surface on the street, the rest of the digging should be done by hand, so the water mains are not destroyed. Some people will have to get culverts/bridges, so they can access their yards. Whenever the canals fill to a certain level, the BCC should pump them dry. Then my cousin will not have to invest ten years’ worth of rent money to lift her house.

I heard that the BCC is also talking about getting city kids into baseball and softball. The vacant lots in the city are too small for baseball and softball, but they are the right size for football (golitos) and bat an rikits.
This BCC really looks like the real deal. The story is they didn’t inherit much money from the previous BCC, but creative, sincere people can get a lot done with less. Whether yu red or you blue, whether yu live in Belize City or elsewhere, yu have to pray for, and support, progressive leadership.

Not with you there, Ervin

I heard Ervin Perez say on the WuB on Tuesday (last week), that it is natural for a politician who is not in government to pray that the politicians in power, the government, fails, and dramatically. He said that is so because the politician in opposition is outside the door permanently, if the government doesn’t mess up.

Please, every person has a hole in their head, some big, some small, so we shouldn’t condemn Ervin for being so, so wrong. But we absolutely must chide him. Ervin is a brilliant business talent but hedoantnoapalitiks. Bah.

You can learn a lot from sports. A great player doesn’t have to crash out for an up and coming player to replace him. If the up and coming player is better, guess who has to change uniform.

A politician in opposition doesn’t need a government to fail. For sure it helps his/her political success, immensely, if the politician in power is a clod. But there are so many things a politician in opposition can bring to the table. All the reports said that the American economy was growing nicely, and Hilary Clinton belonged to the same party that had brought the growth, so there’d be more of the same. Then Donald Trump came along and told them that they were poor, getting a rotten deal from the other side, and that he had the magic to make them great again.

Just for the record, not all politicians are consumed with power. Philip Goldson was one politician who didn’t have the consumption. If he had it, he would have worked his show differently.

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Deshawn Swasey

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