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9 Function

9.1 Housing and basic facilities

Overcrowding has been a serious problem in Roseau since the colonial times. It was already noted in a report prepared by the Moyne Commission in 1938. Several housing schemes have been pursuited since then. These include Goodwill, Kings Hill, Fond Cole, Bath Estate, Canefield, and Pointe Michel (Honychurch 1995: 198). Except for Canefield in the North and Pointe Michel in the South these areas belong nowadays to the district of Roseau City Council, thus being suburbs of Roseau.

The oldest residential areas are inside the Inner City district. There are many Victorian style houses dating back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many of which have been later converted into commercial use. In the fringes of the Inner City by the river front and in the Pound area there are newer concrete buildings among smaller shanty houses (Fig. 18). In Potter's Ville, shanty houses are found only in the southern part called Bay Town, and along the coast line. Otherwise, concrete buildings are the dominant housing type of Potter's Ville.

As one climbs up the hill to Goodwill the upper one gets the larger are the plots on which the houses are built and the fewer is the number of people that live in one dwelling unit. The average of persons per dwelling unit in Roseau City Council district is 3.32. Besides in the Inner City the figure is under the average in Goodwill and St. Aroment while in Potter's Ville and especially in Bath Estate the figure is higher. Newtown performs approximately the average figure (see Table 1).

The late 1970s and early 1980s were breaking years in Dominica in many respects. The island got its independence at November 1978, riots and and social unrest took place in spring 1979 continuing in 1980, and an attempt of coup d'état in 1981 by former Prime Minister Patrick John. As far as housing is concerned, however, and also in many other respects, the event that had the greatest influence was the destruction caused by the Hurricane David in August 1979.

David was probably the most most intense hurricane in the Caribbean in the 20th century. Its center passed close to the village of Soufriere, and it caused extensive destruction in the southern part of Dominica. However, due to the mountainous terrain of Dominica, the area to the North of line between the villages of St. Joseph on the Leeward coast and Marigot on the Windward coast the damages were much lighter or none (
Lugo et al. 1983: 202).

Three fourths of the 75,000 people of Dominica were left homeless since David passed over the most densely populated parts of the island. Only 37 people were killed which is a miracle since practically no operational systems for disaster preparedness existed (Ward 1980: 357; Honychurch 1995: 270). After the disaster Roseau experienced an impulse of rural homeless people in addition to the homeless in the city itself. In 1984 there were still some one thousand squatters in Stock Farm, Tarish Pit, Gutter Village, Bay Town, Fond Cole, and Kings Hill. Some more existed in Canefield (DNSP s.a.: 141). The most important of the housing projects created in the aftermaths of David is Bath Estate (Fig. 19).

Roseau's existing sewage tratment system was constructed in 1932 and is nowadays inadequate to treat all the waste even in the restricted Inner City district that it serves. This is reflected also in the degradation of marine environment in the front of the Bay Front (Christian 1992: 183). Goodwill has its own sewage system that was built as part of the housing scheme in the 1950s. These systems are now to be replaced with a new one which will be located in the southern tip of Potter's Ville called Bay Town. According Raphael Francis (1999), Senior Officer of Physical Planning Division, the new system will serve almost the whole administrative district of Roseau reaching from Fond Cole in the North to Castle Comfort in the South. Construction of new treatment plant causes relocation of people from Bay Town to Yam Piece (Fig. 20).

Other existing relocation plan is to move people from Gutter Village to Stock Farm but it is not, however, yet under process. On the other hand, the situation is being regularised by offering a secure land title for some squatter areas, and to offer improvements in infrastructure (DCEP 1991: 169). There exists also a plan to build one hundred lots of housing to Charlotte Valley in Newtown to an area with steep terrain (DNSP s.a.: 140; Francis 1999).

Most of the housing in Dominica, however, is dominated by the private sector. Most people build their own houses. The obtain loans to purchase a lot, pay it back, and after while apply another loan for the construction. Paying loans back may take some time because 60 percent of the households in Dominica earn less than ECD 500 per month (in 1991) which is equivalent to about USD 200. The figure might be somewhat too low since many people tend not to state their real incomes but, anyway, also some of the governmental housing projects like that of Pound in Central Roseau are beyond the reach of the people (DNSP s.a.: 131, 142-144).

Only few block houses exist in Central Roseau, Potter's Ville, and Bath Estate (Fig. 21). As suitable land is a scarce resource in Dominica, more apartment buildings are under consideration. According to Francis (1999), part of the housing in proposed Charlotte Valley scheme is to be implemented in this manner. Most of the new housing are, however, detached and semi-detached houses built to the fringes of the city, for instance in Fond Cole and Stock Farm in the North, and Castle Comfort and Wall House in the South. Some new land for housing development will be available when the prison will be moved from Stock Farm to the village of Warner some nine kilometers to the North. (CDNSP s.a.: 41).

The Infirmary of Roseau can accommodate some 95 elderly people. It is located between Queen Mary Street and Bath Road opposite to the Botanical Gardens and operated by the Roman Catholic Church. The Grotto Home for Homeless located on Valley Road also opposite to the Botanical Gardens can accommodate some 50 people. It is privately operated and, as the Infirmary, its economy is largely based on charity. Both the Infirmary and the Grotto Home receive also some governmental funding. There exists also a plan by another private association to build a retirement home to Morne Daniel between Fond Cole and Canefield. If realised, the home will accommodate some 80 to 100 senior citizens of Dominica (DNSP s.a.: 134-136).

In terms of fit (Lynch 1981; see Chapter 4.2) there are several examples of misfit in housing in Roseau. Quantitatively, misfit is apparent in the shortage of housing. This is caused partially due to the shortage of land, and partially due to the economical disability of people to buy or construct houses.

The main electricity sources for Roseau are hydro-power and diesel energy. Freshwater Lake--situated some 10 kilometers to the north-east inside the Morne Trois Pitons National Park--was dammed for that purpose in 1964. Water flow of the lake was later increased by diverting water of three streams to Freshwater Lake. Another dam was built to Titou Gorge near the village of Laudat. In Fond Cole there is also a diesel power plant serving Roseau (James 1988: 10, 41; DNSP s.a.: 207).

Freshwater Lake is also the main source of water for Roseau. Water supply in Dominica is abundant, and water is even exported to the neighbouring islands. Anyhow, some shortages in the water supply of Roseau are experienced occasionally (DNSP s.a.: 196).

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