Low-Cost Housing in Barbados: Evolution or Social Revolution?
Book by University of the West Indies Press, 2001
Despite the existence of a well-developed academic discourse on the issue of self-help housing, relatively little attention has been paid to the importance of this type of shelter provision in the Caribbean. Indeed, few detailed empirical studies have been undertaken of housing in the Caribbean and the extent to which low-income households throughout the region capitalize upon their own 'sweat equity' in search of adequate shelter. The principal aim of this volume is to provide a detailed empirical examination of the low-income housing system in Barbados, focusing specifically on the relationship between the state and the poor. The book therefore provides an evaluation of the government's attempt to recognize the importance of self-help, upgrading and vernacular architecture in Barbados, and the first-ever empirical analysis of its Tenantries Programme which started in 1980. In assessing the island's formal housing market, the opportunities and constraints faced by low-income families in attempting to enter a system now characterized by a so-called benign state apparatus, and dominated by private sector institutions and external aid donors, are identified. As part of the work, a range of field-based approaches, social survey techniques and ethnographic methods was used to appraise housing conditions, upgrading and development on the tenantries. Cartographic and statistical modes of analysis were then employed, in order to analyse the results of first-hand surveys encompassing over 3,500 individual dwellings. In conclusion, the volume assesses the future of Barbadian housing, and the implications of the nation's period of IMF-imposed structural adjustment. It is argued that the need for continued government intervention in low-income housing is critical, and that the state's acceptance of the self-help tradition in providing homes for the poor is of paramount importance if it is to remain a truly viable actor in the Barbadian housing system. The authors would like to thank the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) of the United Kingdom, which funded the research. Justin Jacyno of the Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London, assisted in the preparation of some of the computer-based cartographic work, whilst Dr John Coshall of the University of North London provided assistance with the multivariate statistical analysis.
In Barbados, a number of individuals and organizations were key agents in assisting the work. Firstly, the staff of the then Ministry of Housing and Lands provided invaluable help. Mr Allan Jones allowed Mark Watson to work within the ministry, whilst Mrs Margaret Talma provided unrivalled enthusiasm and knowledge of the Barbadian housing system. Thanks are due to Ms Patricia Barrow and Mr Rudy Headley for the advice they afforded. The ministry assisted Rob Potter in his studies of Barbadian housing carried out after 1987. We should also like to thank Vibert Best of the Housing Credit Fund for his time and interest in the research, along with other members of staff at the National Housing Corporation, who provided vital information during the period of fieldwork. Turning to the private sector, Brian Begg of Design Collaborative International, Stanton Gittens of Ideal Homes, Angela Archer of Spring Homes, Keith Codrington of Kentor Homes, and Richard Gill all provided invaluable insights into the island's housing system. Many thanks are also due to the staff of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Undoubtedly, most importantly, we should like to thank all those citizens of Barbados who, as owner-occupiers or tenants, whether on housing estates, private residential developments or tenantries, gave freely of their time in participating in the research, and tolerated our intrusions into their daily lives.
We were lucky enough to be able to visit Barbados again in April 1997 and to discuss changes in housing policy since the fieldwork was carried out and the manuscript prepared. We are particularly grateful to those at the Housing Division of the Ministry of Public Works, Transport and Housing for the time they gave us. It has therefore been possible to cover developments through to 1996-1997 in the form of a postscript following chapter 13. We are happy to record that some of the policies that we stated that we should like to see put into practice, based on valorizing the indigenous self-help system, are indeed being extended in the form of an urban renewal programme.