The Hon. Major General (Ret’d) Edmund Dillon- Remarks- HDC Housing Distribution Ceremony- River Runs Through
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good Morning and Welcome to today’s Housing Distribution Ceremony.
It gives me great pleasure to be here this morning, as it marks the completion of Phase 1 of this development, aptly called River Runs Through, which was started by this Administration in August, 2016. We are delighted to be able to distribute seventy-six (76) of these housing units today to successful beneficiaries of the Ministry’s Housing Programme.
As we symbolically hand over the keys to individuals this morning, this Government recognizes the importance of owning your own homes which is one of the basic desires of all of us. There is something magical that resonates through us when we hold the keys to our first home. A sense of achievement and fulfilment.
Over the years we have witnessed the increasing growth pole and correlated demand for housing along the country’s East-West Urban Corridor. As a responsible and caring government we have listened and responded to the call to action, in providing access to affordable housing solutions to this bustling region. In addition to this development, we are working on completing other developments in neighbouring communities such as Trestrail in D’Abadie and Bon Air South in Arouca, which was also started in 2016.
In Mount Hope, we have Mahagony Court Housing Development which is being constructed under a Public Private Partnership arrangement. This was the first project undertaken using the PPP model. Last month, we launched another in Chin Chin, Cunupia and there are others that will come onstream shortly. While we cannot provide houses for all, rest assured that this Gov’t will pursue relentlessly to provide as much as possible.
This Administration intends to pursue this model as well as the Housing Construction Incentive Programme to continue its Accelerated Housing Programme throughout the country. Under the PPP and HCIP arrangements, applicants can access mortgages valued as much as $1.5M or as low as $750,000 and less, so that every income grouping listed on the database is catered for.
In this way we can provide mortgaged units at affordable prearranged prices, to prequalified applicants on the housing database, utilising Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Finance Compay Limited’s 2% and 5% mortgage interest rate. It is calculated that more than 6,000 families who have applied for the public’s housing programme will benefit from these revised interest rates, which are also available for persons wishing to purchase on the open market.
The PPP model, the Housing Construction Incentive Programme and the Aided Self-Help Housing Programme, another housing initiative implemented by this administration, are all geared towards increasing the public housing stock and assisting the Ministry to meet its mandate to provide affordable housing options whilst reducing the burden of expenditure on the State. We view these housing initiatives as win-win scenarios for all stakeholders, as they will create all kinds of opportunities within our economic landscape including the creation of direct and indirect jobs, that will generate revenue streams.
You may have noticed that six small contractors were used on this project. That was intentional as we want to see micro and small contractors playing a greater role in the Public Housing Construction Programme unlike what we saw happening under the previous Administration. We want to ensure that the small entrepreneurs have the same opportunities to grow and develop, just as the medium and large construction outfits. This measure also ensures a level of competitiveness that will drive the cost of construction down, thereby making home ownership more affordable.
The Housing Development Corporation (HDC), under the astute leadership of Chairman Newman George and Managing Director Brent Lyons, implemented a 22 Point Certification Quality Management Programme in 2016 to guarantee improved quality of its construction projects. What this means is that there is sign off and approval of work at every stage of the construction process, to mitigate against shoddy workmanship and make the contractors accountable for delivering the highest and best quality standards.
Once the contractor has delivered quality work he or she will be will be given the opportunity to construct other units which makes sense and is beneficial to both the contractor as well as the State as there is no further mobilisation costs, there is sustained employment, and there is no slowing down of a project, because the learning curve has already been achieved with respect to the design and construction techniques.
Incentivising private sector investors, to get involved in the construction of public housing, including providing oversight by the Ministerial Committee on the Construction sector, will allow the state housing apparatus, to focus its limited resources, on the provision and maintenance of public rental accommodation, for those who are unable to service a mortgage.
Contrary to what has been said by certain commentators the provision of rental units has always been an integral part of the PNM’s housing sector agenda. One only has to review the Housing Policy of 2002, as well as the housing sub-committee reports on the Strategic Development Plans – Vision 2020 and 2030 in which it is clearly articulated that the provision of rental units remains an important component of this Administration’s housing programme.
It is said that it takes a village to raise a child…a concept that holds true today as it was yesterday…let us bring families together in communities created on the premise of affordable living where they can feel comfortable, safe and secure. The HDC has managed to turn its housing developments into welcoming, nurturing spaces with the construction of play parks in several of its communities.
In addition, the communities are strategically located close to other family oriented facilities and amenities, to ensure there are lots of opportunity for holistic growth and development. Lastly, with the allocation of deserving service men and women within these developments, there is a real opportunity for them to become active members of their communities and act as a deterrent to criminal activity so that residents can feel relatively safe in their neighbourhoods. I urge you to lead by example given your professional training and disposition. Add value to your communities. Get involved.
As you receive your packages today, it is now your responsibility to make it into a home. Let your homes be grounded in the motto of our country – discipline, production and tolerance, founded on a bedrock of spiritual consciousness.
I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate the beneficiaries of today’s distribution and urge all of you to uphold your financial obligations to the HDC and TTMF, so that others can experience the same joy you are feeling today. Best wishes to you and your families as you make your community a place you can be proud of and where you’ll be able to create many happy memories.
You have an opportunity to define your community by the relationships you build and the signals you send.
I also wish to thank the Permanent Secretary and staff of the Ministry, the Chairman, and Board of the HDC and Mr. Lyons and his team, the contractors, service providers and others who would have worked tirelessly to make this event possible.
God Bless all of us and our nation.
Thank you for the courtesy of your attention.