DEED OF LEASE DISTRIBUTION CEREMONY GOVERNMENT AIDED SELF-HELP HOUSING PROGRAMME
The Honourable Camille Robinson-Regis, M.P.
Minister of Housing and Urban Development
Government Campus Auditorium Richmond Street, Port-of-Spain
May 2, 2023 12:30 p.m.
- The Honourable Adrian Leonce, Minister in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
- Frances Seignoret, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
- Wayne Inniss, Chairman and members of the Land Settlement Committee
- Hazar Hosein, Chief Executive Officer, Land Settlement Agency
- Members of the Government Aided Self-Help Housing Programme Committee
- Managers and Officers of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and Land Settlement Agency
- Beneficiaries of the Government Aided Self-Help Housing Programme
- Members of the media
- Ladies and gentlemen
Ladies and gentlemen, it is an absolute joy to be here with you today as Minister Leonce and I deliver to you on the promise made by your Government, to ensure that no one is left behind as we build a better Trinidad and Tobago. The Deeds of Lease you will receive today signal our commitment to you, individually and collectively, and to the wider community, that this Government, and this Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, will do all within our power to lift each citizen, each family, and each household to the pinnacle of their potential.
Ladies and gentlemen, the provision of affordable, well-designed shelter solutions has been a priority objective of every PNM-led Administration from as far back as 1962, and this Rowley-led administration is no different. We appreciate only too well the historical disparities and inequities that have impacted the distribution of land in Trinidad and Tobago, and how zealously those who have benefitted from those historical decisions, guard and defend their landholdings, even while they seek to expand their acquisitions.
Every PNM Prime Minister, bar none, has sought to ensure that the national patrimony is made available to every citizen, regardless of race, religion, gender or political affiliation. We understand, as many others do, how important that dream of homeownership is to all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
This Government too, under the astute leadership of our Prime Minister Dr. the Honourable Keith Rowley, recognises that access to land can be utilised as a vehicle for real change in the socio-economic fortunes of our citizens. It is for this reason, that alongside the plethora of other opportunities for housing solutions, the Government Aided Self-Help Housing Programme was introduced in fiscal 2018.
Since then, five hundred and five (505) families have benefitted from this programme, and today we add more families to this list. This solution is designed to encourage qualified families, with or without land, to manage their own home construction with assistance from the State.
We, at the Ministry, understand only too well the social, economic and psychological benefits of homeownership, and the critical role the State must play in the public housing sector to ensure that eligible citizens, particularly the vulnerable within the low to middle-income groups, have an opportunity to build tangible wealth assets through homeownership.
To advance the Government Aided Self-Help Housing Programme, State Lands have been identified at Cashew Gardens, Carlsen Field; Chin Chin, Cunupia; Milton Village, Couva; Roopsingh Road and Waterloo Road, Carapichaima; Picton Extension, Diamond Village, San Fernando; Factory Road, Chaguanas and Orange Field Road, Carapichaima.
Today, 27 lots at Factory Road, Chaguanas and 23 lots at Orange Field Road, Carapichaima are being distributed.
Through this Programme, you now have access to fully serviced residential lots at thirty percent (30%) of the market value, and a lease of thirty (30) years with the option to renew.
You also have the option of making your own financial arrangements or utilizing affordable, mortgage financing from the Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Finance Company Limited (TTMF), at an interest rate of between 2% and 5%, (where else would you get those kinds of rates), to facilitate the purchase of the land from the State and the construction of a single-family residential unit. Ladies and gentlemen, Madam PS, Chairman, I believe I can say without fear of contradiction that no other lending agency in Trinidad and Tobago is willing to offer those kinds of interest rates to prospective home owners.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Government’s aim is to empower qualifying citizens to build their own homes. As such, we envision that the programme, at the macro-level, will achieve a number of objectives. First, it will considerably increase the country’s housing stock, and in so doing reduce both the deficit and the burden of demand for new units from the Housing Development Corporation (HDC). The spin-off effect of this investment will be to significantly reduce the cost of public spending on the housing sector. It will also generate direct and indirect employment opportunities.
At the individual level, this programme will also allow you to choose the style and functionality of their homes, based on your particular family needs and economic circumstances.
Ladies and gentlemen, provision of public housing and residential lots constitute a critical plank of our development strategy as a means of eradicating poverty, creating inter-generational wealth, as well as achieving economic growth and social mobility.
There can be no denying the direct correlation between our Vision 2030 policy blueprint and the development of our citizens, their families and communities. We believe every investment we make in the housing sector now and in the future is a direct investment in our people.
We believe that when we empower our citizens, through a pathway of home- ownership, we are not just meeting a family’s need for safe and secure shelter, but we are also providing a tangible opportunity for them to put down roots, maintain stability, create vibrant, wholesome communities that they and their families can enjoy for years to come.
One of the many results of the recently concluded regional symposium on crime, was that deeper understanding that crime and criminality is not only solved by putting more Police boots on the ground, but also by building resilient housing communities that can facilitate the growth of strong and happy families.
For that reason, and I know I can speak for my colleague – the Honourable Adrian Leonce, we will redouble our efforts to continue engaging with private investors via the Public Private Partnership model as well as the Small and Medium Contractors Housing initiative, to increase the public housing stock.
These programmes, in addition to others, such as the Housing Construction Subsidy, the Housing and Village Improvement Programme, and the Home Improvement Grant and Subsidy programmes provided under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Develeopment, all work in tandem to serve the need of every citizen who is in need of housing.
The Ministry, through the Land Settlement Agency, is also responsible for the Squatter Regularisation Programme and the Tenancy Programme, which provide eligible squatters and tenants with the opportunity to access security of tenure for the land they occupy and to improve their living conditions, through infrastructural development.
Today, I want to make an appeal to all citizens, but especially those who are already owners of lands and homes in close proximity to these sites that are being developed. The same joy and happiness you experience, the same safety and security that comes with home ownership that you enjoy, is precisely what the Government wants for all citizens of this country. And so I appeal to you to extend the hand of welcome and support your new neighbours. As citizens of this great Republic, they are no less deserving of the right to housing as any other citizen.
Similarly, I want to appeal to those who believe that they have a right to continue illegally occupying lands that do not belong to them. As this Government, like those before us, seek to balance the needs of housing and agriculture, there will be occasions when it becomes necessary to reclaim lands that belong to the State. We will continue to do this in as humane a manner as possible, and encourage your full support. We cannot condemn lawlessness by those who rape, rob and kill, and then be asked to condone illegal land grabbing. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development will follow the prescriptions laid down in the law to deal with matters such as these, but still wishes to encourage those affected to simply do the right thing.
As I close, I extend my sincerest congratulations to all recipients of these Deeds of Lease. The journey while long has gotten you where you need to be right now. Today, I just want to urge you and your family to make the most of this opportunity, especially as we are aware of the many who are still awaiting their turn to share in the joy of homeownership.
Today, I give you the assurance, along with my colleague, Minister Leonce that we will continue to provide avenues to improve the quality of life of eligible families, through the provision of affordable housing and land solutions, home improvement grants and housing subsidies, Statutory leases and Deeds of Leases.
It would be remiss of me if I did not seize this opportunity to thank and congratulate the Chairman, the Government Aided Self-Help Housing Committee, the CEO and the management team of the LSA for their work and dedication in ensuring that this programme continues to achieve its objectives.
Given that we are in the month of May and, as a daughter and as a mother myself, I also take this opportunity to wish an early Happy Mother’s Day to all the women of this nation, particularly those who are with us here today. You know that others stand on our shoulders for the development of our nation, and we will continue the tradition of nurturing, inspiring and motivating the next generation. May God continue to favour you and your efforts and to bless our nation of Trinidad and Tobago.