A GUY'S VIEW: Bonds that do not bind
One seldom hears the wisdom of the old in the peculiar proverbs that
taught us so much, but persons of a certain vintage will always
remember some of the more profound ones.
One saying that came to mind last week was the sage saying that if you
can’t feed a man, you shouldn’t take food out of his mouth. I am sure
other cultures may express the interpretation of this in other words,
but this prose fits Bajan mouth.
I had reason to call this to mind when I read the Planning and
Development (Amendment) Act, 2020. That Act would amend the parent Act
in substantial ways. It creates an entirely new department and does
away with the Chief Town Planner. One of the things that jumps out at
the reader is the emphasis on fees at every turn. I wish someone with
building experience could tell us how much the provisions of this Bill
may increase building costs.
But what bothered me most at first reading was the occupancy
certificates requirement. This certificate is consent to live in your
renovated house. I grew up seeing people adding to their houses over
time as money came in. The people who lived in the village that
parented me were not rich, but they were providers. Without money,
they bought gold and gave that gold to the world in the form of their
industrious children, all of whom contributed to the building of this
They housed their families by prudence and thrift. They could not
qualify for a mortgage, but they built houses that would eventually be
large enough to shelter their children and grandchildren. When a son
started to work, a “shedroof” would be added. Another one would be
added when another child got a job, and so on. That explains the
multiple gable structure that was a feature of our chattel houses.
This was all done while the existing structure was still occupied.
Wooden houses were converted to wall structures without being vacated
for a single day. Finding alternative accommodation was never an
option for consideration.
But that patient building strategy is now to be taken away from their
children. Section 12 of the Amendment Act amends section 44 of the
parent Act by adding a number of new sections, among them, section
44E. Section 44E (1) states thus:
“No person shall occupy
(i) a new or renovated building; or
(ii) a new extension to a building; or
(b)permit any such new, renovated or extended building, to be occupied
until an occupancy certificate has been issued with respect to the
This amendment would prohibit the occupation of any portion of a new
or renovated building or an extension to that building until you pay
the Government its demanded fee and the Government permits you to
occupy that building, such permission to be evidenced by a certificate
of occupancy. Put bluntly, you cannot renovate your house and stay in
It is one thing to develop and enforce building standards, but the
adoption of foreign standards that bear no relevance to our cultural
reality is wrongheaded.
According to this, gone are the days when one could avoid selling
one’s soul for a mortgage and take your time and extend your house as
your finances permitted. Now, you must move out and find alternative
accommodation and then wait for Government to let you back into your
The Government has a National Housing Corporation which cannot house
thousands of Barbadians that need houses. The government cannot house
the people, so why are they preventing the people from housing
Tenants have interpreted the words of the Prime Minister, in another
discourse, to mean that their landlords should not evict them from
their buildings if they refuse to pay the agreed rent. Landlords are
now having to issue Notices to Quit and are heading to court to regain
control of their properties. No doubt, some of them will use
self-help, a practice that is usually discouraged.
This country has lost its direction. Poor people trying to make their
homes comfortable now have to pay for an occupancy certificate. The
bonds of consanguinity have been loosened and no longer bind us. Our
brotherly bonds are no more binding that Government paper that can be
dishonoured. We see Robin Hood in reverse, a practice which
dispossesses the poor of the little they have and gives it to the
If there is a God looking down on what is happening in this country,
he cannot be pleased.