Certificate of Comfort Distribution Ceremony
Feature Address by
The Honourable Camille Robinson-Regis, MP
Minister of Housing and Urban Development
Government Campus Plaza Auditorium
3-4 Richmond Street, Port of Spain
Wednesday, June 14, 2023
- The Honourable Adrian Leonce, Minister in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and Member of Parliament for Laventille East/Morvant
- Ms. Shanmatee Singh Ng Sang, Acting Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
- Mr. Wayne Inniss, Chairman of the Land Settlement Committee, and other members of the Land Settlement Committee
- Mr. Hazar Hosein, CEO of the Land Settlement Agency
- Heads of Division and staff of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and of the Land Settlement Agency
- Today’s beneficiaries
- Members of the media
- Ladies and Gentlemen
Ensuring that citizens have access to adequate and affordable housing is a critical aspect of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development’s purpose. Improving the overall living conditions and welfare of our citizens is a responsibility this Government takes very seriously. This is why I am happy to be here with all of you this afternoon, at what will prove to be, for each and every one of you, a life-changing event: the distribution ceremony of Certificates of Comfort to 105 eligible recipients.
As you may be aware, Certificates of Comfort entitle holders to a Statutory Lease for a term of thirty (30) years. This is all managed by the Land Settlement Agency (LSA) of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, the work of which is vitally important to us, as a country, fulfilling our Vision 2030 goal to provide citizens with access to adequate and affordable housing.
The Land Settlement Agency, or the LSA, as we affectionately call it, helps people meet one of their most basic human needs. Through the LSA we make sure our communities know of our compassion, empathy, and service, as a caring Government. Through the LSA, we show that here in Trinidad and Tobago, we take care of all our citizens. We leave no one behind.
Given the laudable work performed by LSA workers and public officers of the Ministry, I invite recipients here today to show your appreciation and support to them for getting the job done. [Applaud] It has been a long journey for many of you since the date of your application (on or before October 27, 2000). That is because it is a lengthy, legal process to regularise unplanned settlements on State land. However, I want you to know that we support you every day. Inevitably there will always be delays in the regularisation process, but I hope everyone here understands that what we are doing here today is significant. We are giving a great benefit to 105 more families. I say 105 more because we have already prepared seven hundred and forty-four (744) Certificates of Comfort since this Administration took office, and approximately eight thousand three hundred (8,300) Certificates of Comfort since the law was enacted. We therefore have the data and evidence that prove that we are solving this problem, just as we said we would.
Great has been your patience and great is your reward today. The Certificate of Comfort you will each receive today gives you:
- Protection from being ejected from State Lands;
- The ability to access basic utilities and government assistance for home improvements – including from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development; and
- The ability to obtain a secure title through the issuance of a Deed of Lease, once the recipient does not own or occupy any other dwelling house, or residential land, or agricultural land upon which a residential structure is or can be erected.
And that is not all:
- Eligible recipients of Certificates of Comfort are entitled to a Statutory Lease for a term of 30 years, as I said before. The Statutory Lease is a unique instrument that was created under Section 14 of the State Land (Regularisation of Tenure) Act No. 25 of 1998 (SLRT Act). It functions as a financial instrument that conveys upon the holder a period of 30 years to pay for the land interest-free.
Then, the final step is acquiring the Deed of Lease which gives the leaseholder security of tenure under the Act. Established under Section 15 of the Act, the Deed of Lease is defined as “a legal interest in State Land which may be obtained by the squatter or tenant who is entitled to a Statutory Lease.”
Like the Certificates of Comfort you will receive today, this is a highly coveted document because it will allow Statutory Leaseholders who complete payment, to get a Deed of Lease for a term of 199 years. That is the same length of time people get when they buy property in the private sector. I hope you take a moment to reflect on that, and on the significant wealth your government is transferring to you and your families.
The Deed of Lease entitles the recipient to:
- Security of tenure;
- The right to enjoy property under the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago;
- The right to compensation if the property is required for a public purpose;
- The right to use the property as collateral, if you want to secure a loan to educate your children, start a small business, invest in agro-processing, improve or renovate your homes;
- The right to protect the property from squatters and trespassers;
- The right to demolish unauthorised structures without fear of prosecution by law;
- The right to eject any unauthorised persons and remove their chattel; and
- The ability to use the property as a form of savings, leave inter-generational wealth to your children and to your children’s children.
That is why I am encouraging all recipients of Certificates of Comfort today to continue the steps to obtain Security of Tenure. It will be entirely worth it.
As you have heard, today, 105 persons are to receive Certificates of Comfort having met the necessary criteria as set out in the law. These recipients are from all across the country because, as we reiterated in our Roadmap to Recovery, no one will be left behind, regardless of race, creed, class, geography or political affiliation. This is evidenced in the long list of places for which Certificates of Comfort are being issued today, and I think it is important to list them all. Feel free to applaud as you hear your area:
- CLAXTON BAY
- SANGRE GRANDE
- POINT FORTIN
- DIEGO MARTIN
- SAN FERNANDO
- PRINCES TOWN
- PORT OF SPAIN
- SANTA CRUZ
- LAS CUEVAS
- SIPARIA; and
Under the leadership of the Honourable Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, this Government is proud today to be providing families from these areas, not only with the resources that keep you from being evicted, but we are also showing you that your Government is keeping its promise to you.
There will be critics. There will be those who have much to say, but history will record that we helped thousands of hard-working citizens of this country to regularise their living conditions, to take them from being squatters to regular homeowners, not only because we are a caring government, but because they did their part. They made their payments. They filled out the paperwork. They kept the faith and their patience paid off, not only for themselves but for generations to come.
Yours will be a story of courage, of hard work, and of resilience. Ours may be a story of generosity but it will also be a story of doing what is right, of showing compassion, of putting people first.
You will each leave here with, not just a Certificate of Comfort, but with something even more priceless: peace of mind. And that will impact every aspect of your life. That is how I know, if not you alone, members of your families will step up if and when necessary to ensure that you meet your obligations on this path of righteousness and regularisation.
From this day forth, the entire conversation you and your children have about where you live will change. When you go to the banks, the credit unions, your children’s schools, you can hold your heads high, knowing that you are playing your role in national development. Let it also motivate you to redouble your efforts to make Trinidad and Tobago better every day. Make our vision for this country your own because, in part, it is thanks to that vision that we are here today.
When we came into office, we vowed to take care of everyone, especially the most vulnerable in society. That is what we are doing here today: keeping that promise; and together, I know we shall make even greater progress.
In the 2023 (national) budget, we increased the allocation to Regularization of Squatter Communities from nine point five million ($9,500,000) to twenty million ($20,000,000) dollars. That means after today, many more will share in the joy you feel. Many more eligible applicants will get their Certificates of Comfort. That is what we are committed to doing. We will continue to do the work on the ground, to stay effective, and focused on the people.
Let me end by congratulating you. Since the law was enacted, over twenty-two thousand, three hundred and three (22,303) persons have applied for Certificates of Comfort, so you are very fortunate to have been approved to receive your document today. Keep doing your part and I can assure you that life will only get better for you and your families.
I thank you. and may God continue to richly bless our nation.