The Honourable Randall Mitchell- Feature Address- Housing Allocation Ceremony – Dec 09, 2017
A warm good morning to you all!
To those of you visiting us today, Welcome to the City of San Fernando!
I am always happy to be present at these housing distribution ceremonies and share these joyous moments with you because it allows me to see the impact that the Housing policy has on our citizens.
This policy seeks to ensure that our low and middle income families are able to receive quality, affordable shelter to be able to improve their Quality Standard of Living of their families.
Today you, the selected recipients would receive packages and keys to your new homes. The packages may signify different things to different people – but overall, I believe they are received with a deep sense of satisfaction and accomplishment because it represents great success in your efforts to secure shelter for you and your families.
We at the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and the HDC view the distribution of these homes as opportunities for new beginnings for you, the recipients.
These are the fruits of Good Solid Public Policy.
On assuming duties as Minister in March 2016, I committed from that day onward that I will make every effort to fix what had gone wrong in the system so that when I leave the Ministry, I would have left it in a better place than I found it.
Last week I spoke about the injustice that occurs in the public housing sector where it is an open secret that HDC tenants are sub-letting their housing units, earning huge profits at the expense of persons desperately in need of affordable housing.
I say again, this contravenes of our housing policy and directly Breaches the terms and conditions of their Agreements. This injustice must stop and I will continue to work to ensure that this practice does stop under my tenure as Minister.
ILLEGAL OCCUPANCY/ CRIMINAL BEHAVIOUR
Another practice that the HDC is making every effort to eradicate is the practice of the illegal occupancy of its Housing Units. The Occupation of vacant housing units without the permission of the HDC is unlawful and there is very little by way of mitigating circumstances that can justify such unlawful behaviour to the disadvantage of law-abiding citizens on the application list. The State cannot and will not encourage the reward or allow persons to benefit from illegal and unlawful behaviour. To do otherwise, the State would be contributing to the lawlessness we see in society today.
And as I say that, I pay particular attention to today’s very timely front-page headline and report in the Guardian newspaper. The photograph tugs at all our heartstrings, but the report is extremely narrow and focused only on the HDC as the Panacea to all Social Ills.
What the report does not do is ask the following questions:
- Where is the Children’s Authority and what is their position in this matter? Why were the children not placed in safe shelter if their parents are not able to provide for them?
- We have a Ministry of Social Development with Social Workers and Shelters across Trinidad. Did Social Workers visit, and what was the outcome of those visits, was shelter offered?
The report like many others continue to narrowly focus on the HDC and the giving of a house as the Panacea the cure of all social ills. Without wanting to embarrass the lady, I can tell you that after her initial deposit she has not paid a month’s rent to the HDC, so that is another indication that there are much more problems to be addressed in this case than just the giving a house.
However, the HDC will revisit the matter and see how best it can bring assistance to the family
But to reiterate the giving of a house is not the Panacea or Cure all to Social Ills in Society.
To make another point and compound this illegal occupation situation, we are also seeing a new practice as has been occurring in Clifton Towers, Port of Spain, where the criminal gang element is entering these developments and chasing out bonafide tenants using tactics of intimidation and violence.
In the case of Clifton Towers the joint police and army effort would have evicted the illegal occupiers at least 3 occasions. And they continue to return, which itself is indicative of a break down of law and order. Had the Opposition voted with the government to pass the Anti Gang legislation last Wednesday in Parliament, this would have allowed the police to charge those gang members with more substantial offences. But for reasons best known to them the Opposition refused to support the legislation.
The HDC will continue to play its part in engaging the law enforcement agencies to ensure that this type of terror discontinues. This is now a Police matter and will be dealt with accordingly.
I call on all law-abiding citizens to report any possible illegal activity that you observe in your community so that action can be taken in a timely manner.
The security unit of the HDC will continue to conduct audits to determine where such acts are occurring and treat with them accordingly in tandem with the state’s law enforcement agencies.
In the Senate last Tuesday I was called upon by Senator Richards to answer a question on the number of Vacant units between the period September 2015 to October 2017. The answer to the question was when we came into office in September we met 1200 Vacant, Unoccupied units, but by October 2017, the number had dropped to 200. And we intend to allocate and distribute those units by the end of the year.
We have long recognised at the HDC that these vacant, unoccupied and in some cases, vandalised units are very expensive liabilities on the books of the HDC. They only become assets when those citizens who seek housing make homes out of them, and for the HDC when they are sold or rented so that the HDC earns some revenue from them to continue its work of providing affordable housing opportunities.
JOINT PROTECTIVE SERVICES
In February 2017, the Joint Protective Services Housing Committee was reconvened after being dormant for the past 6 years. The goal of this Committee is to coordinate the efforts of those eligible members so that they will be able to secure safe and affordable accommodation.
It was a PNM Government who in 2007, recognised the need to coordinate the efforts of the protective services as a whole in an attempt to secure safe and proper accommodation for members of the protective services.
And a decision was taken to approve a 10% allocation to members of the Joint Protective Services for all public housing distributions.
The Allocation Policy recognises that the presence of active service men in HDC housing communities will redound to the benefit of the community and the country. That by these officers’ presence in HDC communities, there will be a quicker identification and reduction in criminal activities being conducted by those who wish to destroy the social and moral fabric of our neighbourhoods.
Coming back to our New HomeOwners.
I wish to congratulate you on this new phase of your life’s journey. Homeownership may not always be easy. It has its responsibilities, but is definitely rewarding.
Allow me to remind you about your financial commitments. The HDC can no longer afford to tolerate persons who are habitually delinquent with their financial obligations.
In the same way that you have a commitment to us, we also have a commitment to the country, which is to continue to provide affordable housing. We can only do this, if you pay your rent and mortgages ON TIME.
As I close, please accept my best wishes to you and your families, for a safe, happy and enjoyable Christmas and a 2018 that is productive and prosperous.
My appreciation is also extended to the members of the media, who join us for these special ceremonies, to the teams from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and the HDC and to our service providers who come here and inform you about our services.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, for your attention and your listening ear.