HDC Housing Distribution Ceremony Cypress Hills Housing Development Union Hall San Fernando
The Honourable Camille Robinson-Regis, MP
Minister of Housing and Urban Development
Tuesday, October 25th, 2022
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Ladies and gentlemen, the dream of homeownership is one that is cherished by all. For most of us, it is an ambition nurtured from the days of early adulthood when we believed that we had all that it took to conquer the world, and we needed neither parents nor their guidance, because foolishly, we thought we were smarter than they were, more progressive than them, and certainly more in tune with the world than they would ever be. And for many of us, the accidents of geography that caused us to be living in one location as opposed to another, needed to be corrected.
Over the intervening years though, as wisdom and maturity set it, we realised that home ownership was more than independence from parental controls and restrictions. It was about the realization of one’s own dream for self and one’s family, about self-determination and empowerment. Moreover, it was about creating your own wealth, and the beginning of intergenerational wealth.
Today, as we gather to distribute the keys to 60 more families, we at the HDC and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, are extremely proud that we could have assisted in helping you to realize your dreams. We are elated that our partnership with you, has now resulted in you being able to fulfil your lifelong ambition, to be a homeowner, because “Blessed is he who has his own.”
Ladies and gentlemen, new homeowners, the smiles on your faces today is testimony that we are on the right track, and that we are fulfilling our own mandate at the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. But the testimony goes further. Our ability to deliver these houses to you as part of our ongoing “Home for Christmas” promotion is testimony of a Government steadfastly honouring its promises to its people.
Since the commencement of this promotion, and inclusive of today, we have delivered 165 houses to qualified and eligible applicants of the HDC. Never before in the history of the HDC, at least that I can recall, we have so consistently delivered completed houses to deserving applicants on a monthly basis. In August, as part of the commemoration of our country’s 60th Anniversary of Independence, we distributed keys to 60 families. In September we distributed an additional 45 keys at Heron Court, Malabar Gardens, Arima and today we distribute 60 more keys, for a grand total of 165 homes delivered in three (3) months.
Apart from the HDC, I am happy to say that another agency within the ambit of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, the Land Settlements Agency, has also been playing its part in helping Government meet the legitimate expectations of citizens.
Within the last three months as well, the LSA has delivered 37 starter homes, 75 Certificates of Comfort, 60 fully developed housing lots to former employees of State-owned Petrotrin, and an additional 25 fully developed lots to other qualified citizens.
In sum, ladies and gentlemen, that amounts to 362 families that are breathing a little easier today. That amounts to 362 families either realizing their dream of home ownership, or moving one step closer to that reality. That, ladies and gentlemen, is evidence of a government working in the best interest of its citizens. In the grand scheme of things, the number 362 might appear to be a drop in the bucket of those who are legitimately in need of state-sponsored housing or housing assistance, but we hold true to the maxim of old, that “one one cocoa full basket” and we give our solemn pledge today, that we will not stop, we will not rest, until the work is done.
Ladies and gentlemen, our ability to deliver these 60 houses today, spread across the multiple locations under the aegis of the HDC, would not have been possible without the collaboration and cooperation of a host of small and independent, local contractors. Today, I want to single them out and offer to them, on behalf of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, and on your behalf as well, our deepest thanks and sincerest gratitude.
I will be the first to admit that we have not always treated our local contractors with the respect they deserve, evidence of which can easily be found in them having to wait for inordinately long periods to receive their just and deserving dues. And while I can truly and honestly place that blame on our straitened economic times, I know that is of little comfort to our contractors, and therefore I offer them, each one of them, my sincerest apologies. It is for this reason ladies and gentlemen, that the Government has secured a loan facility that will ensure all outstanding payments are made to contractors on a timely basis.
As announced by the Minister of Finance in his recent budget presentation, the Government has secured loan financing for the HDC to the tune of $1.5 billion, one third of which will be allocated to the payments of debts to contractors. I am certain that all our contractors will be happy with this news, and I give the assurance that once releases are received by the HDC, we will move expeditiously to ensure that payments are processed for our contractors in the shortest possible time frame.
Ladies and gentlemen, the HDC’s engagement of small and medium local contractors in the construction industry, is not without purpose and certainly not by accident. Indeed, it represents another area in which this Government is honouring it promises to its citizens.
The construction industry in Trinidad and Tobago is a very mature one, and by virtue of this there are some major players who could easily dominate the entire industry. Mindful of this, your Government has made it a point of policy that there is a place for all in the state-sponsored housing sector.
You would recall, for example, two (2) private/public partnerships involving the big players, one which resulted in the construction of our apartments in Mt. Hope and the other which will result in another set of apartments in San Fernando. With these private/public partnerships, the Government and by extension the HDC, is relieved of the burden of providing upfront financing, as this is the sole domain of the contractor.
In keeping with its promise to empower increasing numbers of citizens to become entrepreneurs on their own, and in so doing, wean themselves of varying forms of state assistance, this Government, your Government, has insisted upon the use of small and medium independent contractors on all state-financed construction projects, whether in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, the Ministry of Works and Transport, the Ministry of Education or any other Ministry.
I am certain you will realize that this is marked departure from the modus operandi of the previous administration which allowed only a few contractors and friends, irrespective of the size and scale of the projects, to benefit from the coffers of the state. This Government, playing its usual role of cleaning up after the mess of other administrations, has reviewed all these operations and moved to ensure that as many local small and medium contractors as possible share in the national economic pie.
Evidence of this can be seen, for example, in the construction of the San Fernando to Point Fortin Highway, the Curepe Interchange, and many other major construction efforts, where multi-billion dollar contracts were broken up to ensure that local small and medium sized contractors can benefit, without sacrificing the quality of the final product. That decision has resulted in million dollar savings to you the people of Trinidad and Tobago, and to the extent that it remains possible, we will continue to proceed in that direction.
Making maximum use of Government’s insistence on engaging local contractors, the HDC has been able to build up a database of local contractors, each of whom can easily handle up to ten houses, and even more in the case of medium sized contractors. Together, they now form the largest component of contractors being engaged by the HDC.
In turn, these contractors have been able to develop a cohort of tradesmen skilled in the various disciplines, whose work and commitment would defy even their staunchest critics. To the HDC, these contractors and their’ employees, we are eternally indebted, and I am certain that today’s beneficiaries of these starter-homes would be equally fulsome in their praise.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Government’s insistence on the development of local content, is born out of a recognition that local content supports the development of the skills and capabilities of local contractors and local firms. For every house constructed, scores of these tradesmen are employed, ensuring that increasing numbers of persons are empowered to participate in the local economy. Key components of that local content include local employment and skills development, local procurement of goods and services, and enhancing the capacity of local suppliers and contractors.
Our perspective is that local content policies and strategies can be an important instrument to promote development and poverty reduction – providing jobs and opportunities for local businesses, facilitating technology transfer, and building local knowledge and skills that are critical for development.
It is for this reason therefore that all our projects, whether through the LSA, the HDC, the East Port of Spain Development Company, or any other agency involved in work designed to enhance the quality of life available to our citizens, will have a mandatory local content component.
Ladies and gentlemen, we do this not only because it trickles down and stimulates the local economy. We do it because, as a responsible and caring government, we intend to stay true to our Vision 2030 promise: We put our people first by nurturing our greatest asset, and ensuring that no one is left behind.
The ceremony today provides us with a litmus test as to our efficacy in responding to the needs of our society’s most vulnerable populations. More than that, it encourages us to renew our commitment and redouble our efforts to ensure that every family in Trinidad and Tobago has a genuine opportunity to access affordable and decent housing, as envisioned in the National Development Strategy, which is itself, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.
Over the next few weeks, the HDC will continue to roll out its various strategies to ensure that it is more responsive to the concerns being raised by all its clients, inclusive of additional ways in which mortgage and rental payments can be made.
Ladies and gentlemen, having spent the last few months at the helm of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, I am convinced more than ever, that here in Trinidad and Tobago, we possess all that is necessary to ensure the safety and prosperity of our citizens. All that is required is for us to work together, to work in harmony with each other, respecting each others’ competencies, and yes, our shortcomings. All that is required is for us to put country first, and I can assure you that is the mantra of this Government.
As we continue to deliver on our promises to you, the 60 recipients of keys to your own houses, to our local contractors as you receive your outstanding payments, and to every citizen of this country, all we ask is that you do your part to be a good and productive citizen.
I thank all of you gathered here today. I continue to offer my unstinting support to the Board and Management of the HDC. I pray the abundance of God’s blessings on each and every housing recipient today, that God will bless your new homes and all who dwell within them, and that God will continue to bless our nation.
I thank you for the courtesy of your attention, and wish continued blessings on the rest of the proceedings.