Construction is vital

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Many countries use the construction sector as a benchmarh to measure the health of their economies. The number of new homes in any given period serves as a forecast of good things to come.
A building boom that sees the erection of homes and other buildings are primary indicators used to determine whether or not the gross domestic product (GDP) of a country is in a healthy state.
For, in addition to increasing the demand for raw materials, the construction sector provides employment for large numbers of residents. People who study this sector say it is by far the most far reaching as the dollars generated trickle down more than any other.
We are all aware of that the world is still reeling from the effects of the 2008 recession that was sparked by the US subprime mortgage crisis.
This came about as US home prices declined after peaking in mid-2006. Homeowners’ ability to refinance their loans became more difficult; adjustable-rate mortgages began to reset at higher interest rates (causing higher monthly payments), and mortgage delinquencies soared.
This caused US housing prices to plummet 30 per cent on average and the US stock market to fall approximately 50 per cent by early 2009.
Houses and what they cost can make or break an economy.
With this in mind, we welcome any attempts by either government or the private sector to become the drivers in this business of providing houses.
Government has been known to take the initiative to provide housing for people especially in the wake of natural disasters.
The story has been passed down through generations of two hurricanes that took direct hits on Antigua & Barbuda within a short space of time in 1950. One of them, Hurricane Dog, desroyed most of the wattle-and-daub structures that housed many families who lived on the estates.
Government sought to alleviate the hardship of those affected by building a number of low-income houses, consisting of two rooms, and as a result this led to the formation of many new villages around Antigua. A few of the original concrete structures are still standing in villages Pigotts, Willikies and Freetown, but most have been renovated by their owners.
Since then, numerous other housing projects funded by both government and the private sector have been introduced to the community. The sizes and the designs of the homes have been marketed to reflect the periods they were built, and the owners’ ability to pay the mortgage.
For the most part, these projects have been well received as the need for housing is one of the dictates of a growing population.
In some instances, we have heard of government’s initiatives to build housing geared towards certain groups, for example civil servants, while a number private companies  have sought to capitalise on the opportunity to add to the housing options.
But during any undertaking success or failure is a real outcome and while some of these projects can be described as successful, others can be said to be dismal failures.
From the local perspective, there are several reasons why projects, estimated to cost millions of dollars, can be termed failures.
First to note is the fact in recent years, the cost of homes in projects have been placed in the hundreds of thousands of dollars – figures that are way beyond the reach of low and mid income earners.
On the other hand, people who can afford to construct a $350,000 home, for example, would rather build their own homes. Evidently, Antiguans and Barbudans have not bought into the concept of “uniformity” associated with projects and more often than not they opt to input their individuality.
Over the years, poor construction, inferior materials, and high costs are among the factors that played a part in causing projects to come to a screeching halt.
It seems as if the odds are stacked against wholesale acceptance of housing projects and we doubt the craze will ever reach the point that our communities reflect the subdivisions and gated communities prevalent in North America and Europe.
However, we will contend that the idea of building homes in communities that places the responsiblilty on the individual to maintain aesthetically pleasing surroundings, is an excellent one.

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