The Antiguan and Barbudan Government has successfully secured the US $5 million grant from the Mexican Government for the housing project.
In early 2015, Prime Minister Gaston Browne announced that the Mexican government agreed, in principle, to provide a US $40 million loan and a US $5 million grant for the housing project.
To date, Antigua & Barbuda has been unable to access the US$40 million loan for its flagship housing initiative, due to Mexico’s inability to garner the revenue normally collected from producing oil due to the drastic drop in oil prices.
However, according to a press statement from the Government’s Director of Communications Maurice Merchant, “the Government of Mexico is partnering with the Gaston Browne administration by making available a social housing grant in the amount of Five Million US dollars (USD$5).
Prime Minister Gaston Browne stated via the said release that the social housing project is aimed at improving the housing stock in the Villa and Point Communities.
He says that this project will be the first phase of an aggressive urban rebuilding process, designed to improve the living standards of the less fortunate in the society.
“The drawback for these areas is that there is usually overcrowding in the homes, which puts great pressure on the government’s social infrastructure such as solid and liquid waste collection and healthcare. Such conditions are conducive to the proliferation of less savoury activities and have high incidents of crime. One of the main focus of the government is to urgently address and eradicate such situations,” PM Browne noted
He added that within the next five months, work will begin on the construction of several multi-floored duplexes for the residents of Booby Alley.
He said that the government will be providing the land for the project, along with infrastructure such as of water, electricity and telephone. It will also be ensuring that roadways are created to facilitate the movement of vehicles in the area, especially emergency vehicles.
The Government will also be engaging private land owners in the area in an effort to acquire lands either through purchase or via land swaps where required.
Meantime, in an interview with ZDK news, Government Spokesperson Lionel Hurst expounded on the why the Government was asked to hold off on the US$40 million dollar loan for the project.
“The Government of Mexico is a significant oil producer and much of the revenue from oil that the Mexicans were hoping to garner in their Treasury has not materialised … as a consequence, the revenues have not been forthcoming, and so the Mexicans are a little less willing to share the loan money that they have promised us,” he said.
Nonetheless, Hurst said the project is forging ahead with 48 extensive homes already built. He said the 5 million dollar grant which will be accessible in short order will be used to expand the project with homes erecting in the Piggott’s and other areas.
The Prime Minister envisions the entire process – planning and building – to be over a two-year period, and encouraged residents to cooperate with the teams visiting them in the coming weeks to gather information.