Ross University – Hip Hip Hooray.

Barbados is fortunate to have Ross University relocating here.  Their presence is a win for everyone: the University, which would have a wonderful location in the true land-of-the-free; the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre (LESC), which would be able to pay its bills; but most importantly, ordinary households.

The severe austerity is impacting those with home mortgages, and to have the reported 1,500 students and staff paying perhaps $1,000 per month for a room in someone’s house, may save the house from foreclosure.  If the owner’s mortgage has already been paid, then the money can be used to invest in the education of their children.

The immediate beneficiaries would likely have been those in close proximity to the LESC, who would have likely benefitted similarly as those near the University of the West Indies.  However, given the LESC’s favourable location and Barbados’ radial road network, anyone living near Highways 4, 5 and 6 would have an advantage since it would be one bus ride to and from LESC.

Many homes are already prepared to host the students and staff, having upgraded their houses to accommodate visitors for the Cricket World Cup in 2007.  The level of interaction should be beneficial to the families since these are not under-graduate teenagers who require more supervision, but post-graduate adults, and the exchange of ideas can only benefit both parties.  Well done Barbados!

Last week, to my dismay, I learnt that all Barbadian households were disqualified from offering their houses as accommodation to the students and staff.  I learnt that only those small houses in the Coverley residential development, which are located far away from LESC, were approved for Ross University students and staff.  I read that even if students wanted to have accommodation at a Barbadian household, that they could not.

Something did not seem right.  Certainly Ross University would correct this news report, but it remained unchallenged.  Hence, this article.

To my knowledge, everyone in a free country has the right to seek accommodation that they can afford.  Even in countries that limit personal freedoms, like Cuba, Russia, China and North Korea, people are allowed to choose affordable accommodations.

In Barbados, the only persons who do not have the choice of accommodations are inmates detained at Her Majesty’s Prisons (HMP) Dodds, the Psychiatric Hospital, and those who choose a military type regimen like the Youth Service and the Defence Force.  Everyone else has a constitutional right to personal liberty where they can seek affordable accommodations.

As I read further, I learnt that these under 900 sq ft houses are reportedly being rented to accommodate 4 persons, who must each pay approximately US$1,000 per month in rent, for a shared space, without a tiled floor finish.

This rent allows those 4 students to pool their rent money for 3 years and easily purchase the house that they are renting.  They can then sell it, share it as a vacation home, or rent it to other students after they graduate.  The students would not need to consider such an investment opportunity if the rent in-line with similar properties in Barbados.

It is a well-known maxim that to understand what is really going on, one should follow the money.  It is public knowledge that the houses at Coverley were not selling as expected.  While homeowners and others may mourn the loss of this economic opportunity, the real victims are the unsuspecting students – who are to be incarcerated at HMP Coverly.

Grenville Phillips II is a Chartered Structural Engineer and President of Solutions Barbados.  He can be reached at

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