HDC Launch of A Home for Christmas
The Honourable Camille Robinson-Regis
Minister of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
- The Mayor of San Fernando, His Worship Alderman Junia Regrello
- The Honourable Faris Al Rawi, Minister of Rural Development and Local and Member Parliament for San Fernando West
- The Honourable Adrian Leonce, Minister in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
- The Honourable Brian Manning, Minister of Finance and Member of Parliament for San Fernando East
- Mrs Claire Davidson-Williams, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of
Housing and Urban Development
- Ms Nirmala Ramlogan, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
- Mr Noel Garcia, Chairman of the Board of the Trinidad and Tobago Housing Development Corporation
- Members of the Board of the HDC
- Managing Director of the Trinidad and Tobago Housing Development Corporation, Ms Jayselle McFarlane
- Heads of Department at the Ministry of Housing and Urban
- Divisional Managers of the HDC
- Members of staff
- Distinguished guests
- Members of the media
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
This morning I would like to extend a warm welcome and congratulations to those of you who are joining us to receive your ‘Home for Christmas.’
As the Minister responsible for housing, this is a rare opportunity where we get to witness when plans and policies meet execution. And what better outcome than a home for so many of you who applied and waited your turn to be selected?
A ‘Home for Christmas’ is what you have been hoping, wishing and praying for, and I also congratulate the HDC on taking this initiative to expedite the process.
This represents a significant turning point in your life.
It may be a place to grow with your family. For some, it may be a space to care for ageing parents in peace and comfort. And for others, it can be a springboard as you build or start a business with a new room for a home office. It is a legacy for your family and perhaps the biggest investment you will ever make. We are proud of you for taking this step to home ownership.
Currently, just under 190,000 applicants are waiting for this moment that you are here for today. The demand for affordable housing stock has not been dampened by the COVID-19 pandemic or the global economic downturns. But I believe the HDC is uniquely positioned to restore hope to our citizens in a very tangible way.
As Chairman of the Oversight Committee for the 60th Anniversary of Independence Celebrations, today’s key giving ceremony brings me great joy because it coincides with our “Diamond Jubilee” and is why we chose 60 families from our database to make new homeowners. What a gift from Trinidad and Tobago!
As our executing agency, the HDC’s mandate is clear: the provision of homes to families who fall in the low and middle-income brackets. But somewhere between 2010 and 2015, the Corporation lost its way under the previous Government. Suddenly, it stopped building homes for our single mothers and fathers who are doing everything possible to provide a safe space and community to call home. Our young people entering the Public Service as a Clerk 1 typically earn just over $5,000. But they too found themselves locked out of the system and on the open market, where the average cost of a twobedroom home is $1.3 million – of course, with a few exceptions.
This is unacceptable for the Keith Rowley Government and, to me, the Minister of Housing and Urban Development. We are therefore working assiduously to refocus our attention on meeting some of our most vulnerable wherever they are.
Basic needs such as housing and safety should not be perceived as a privilege or luxury but as a right. We believe everyone deserves a place to call home, especially those of us who have limited resources and access to financial support.
We have introduced policies designed to make financing more accessible in line with current market realities through the Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Finance Company Limited or TTMF, an agency of the Ministry of Housing and
Urban Development. The Government has increased the qualifying monthly income from $10,000 to $14,000 and the property value from $850,000 to $1 million for persons to access the 2% financing regime. And for the 5% mortgage facility, the lower income limit has been moved to $14,001.00 with a higher limit of no more than $30,000.00. This would allow for the purchase of properties up to $1.5M.
Prospective homeowners, soon you will have a plethora of choices.
The Big Picture
From 2016 to today, I am told, the HDC has handed over nearly 3000 new homes as townhouses, apartments and single-family units. And as many of you would have noticed, the HDC has also advanced the design of their homes in recent years, with more modern architecture and healthier community planning.
We have even more good news. In the next fiscal year, we will not only provide affordable housing for our citizens to purchase; we intend to complete several new developments and make them available as rentals. You will recall this is something we have not done for years.
At Edinburgh Towers in Chaguanas, it is estimated that a two-bedroom unit will be rented for $800 and a three-bedroom for $950. These prices are unheard of in the open market, but we are sure it caters to our customers. Rentals will also be built in Oasis Phase 5 in Chaguanas, Todd Street and Cypress Hill, both located in San Fernando; then, there will be options in Almond Court, Morvant, Trou Macaque, Laventille and Phase 4 of the Beetham project. Three-bedroom units will become available in Citrus Growers along the Eastern Main Road. Our Prime Minister has outlined a plan for urban regeneration, and the HDC, through these developments, is taking up that baton.
The idea is that even though these are rentals, the HDC will enter into an arrangement with their tenants who are desirous of owning their own homes, allowing them to buy the house or apartment eventually.
Several plots of land will be acquired in Diego Martin and Morvant to bolster our housing stock. There is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic halted our construction programme. However, as we learn to live with the virus, I have mandated the HDC to deliver more homes and begin chipping away at the numbers on our database.
Therefore, it should not be surprising when construction starts in the following areas:
- North Grove, Curepe
- Caura Royal Road, Caura
- Exchange, Couva
- Thomas Trace, Bon Air
- Trestrail Package 2, Zone 2, D’Abadie
- Trestrail C & E2, D’Abadie
- La Fortune, Point Fortin
- Strikers Village, Point Fortin
- Carlsen Field
- Additional units right here at Carlton Place
- Corinth B, San Fernando
- Eden Gardens
- Mahogany, Mount Hope
- Malabar Site 1 and 3
- Pier Road, La Brea
- Buen Intento, Princestown
- Eden Gardens, Freeport
- Holly Betaudier Ave, Malabar
- Penco, Edinburgh 500
- Plumbago, La Horquetta
- Preau Village, Moruga
- El Guayanpo, Rio Claro
There are even more, but I will quit in the interest of time. However, I want to point out that no one will be left out. The HDC will be doing construction in the East, the West, the North and the South of this country; if you were counting, that is 22 developments. They will target our citizens who qualify for mortgages, but together our rental and mortgage programmes will yield just over 1,200 units in the coming years. To put this in context, close to five thousand homes are currently under construction, and we have another 1,288 in the pipeline. Ladies and gentlemen, this means the HDC will make available to you, our citizens, a total of 6,152 new houses in the coming years. Moreso, we will acquire 21 vacant lots in Morvant to build homes and communities for you.
HDC Steps up
One aspect that I am very proud of today – is what I see as the emergence of the new HDC. We often consider an organisation ‘new’ when we see a new logo or splashy advertising campaign. But under the capable stewardship of the Managing Director, Jayselle McFarlane and the HDC team, the Ministry is pleased to see many initiatives geared towards creating a better, more accessible, digitally savvy and responsive HDC.
One area that received particular attention was the relaunch of the Updated Housing Application Fulfilment System or HAFS. Under the direction of the HDC’s IT team, with the support of my Ministry’s IT team and the Ministry of Digital Transformation, the new HAFS is a faster, more user-friendly experience that makes it easier for applicants to view the status of their submission, access easy mortgage calculators and obtain pre-approvals. This has been a much-needed transformation for the customer-facing portal of the HDC.
The Corporation’s Construction Department is also making moves to implement processes and technology that will improve the delivery of homes on time and within budget. This approach will also include a new system that builds to the standard the HDC and its homeowners expect.
In my meetings with the HDC team, I have also been made aware of the Enterprise Management Software, which is also a core part of the new HDC. This software will strengthen the Corporation’s institutional memory and allow for digital management of customer records, documents and information. We are turning the corner.
This, along with many of the measures outlined, reflect how we can smartly transform our State enterprises and Ministries with targeted approaches that are cost-efficient and redound to the benefit of the people we serve. By creating more technologically-driven and customer-centric systems, everyone wins.
“A Home for Christmas” is just a small part of our long-term plan for housing in Trinidad and Tobago. We will continue this campaign every month until the end of December. Today, I give you my commitment that 2022 is just the beginning. Rest assured that even though your name did not appear on today’s list, we have plans in place to increase your chances of getting a key from the HDC.
I thank you and recognise you all for being here. Thank you to the Chairman and the Board of Directors of the HDC, the Managing Director and her hardworking teams for doing the necessary work to serve you, our citizens.
To those selected, congratulations again. Connect with your new neighbours and familiarise yourselves with your new community. My best wishes to you all, and thank you for the courtesy of your time and attention today.