The Hon. Major General (Ret’d) Edmund Dillon- Remarks- Signing of Contract for the Provision of 5000 housing units
This morning I consider it to be a defining moment in the housing construction industry in Trinidad and Tobago. A while ago when I heard my fellow MPs from San Fernando West and Port of Spain South and the kind of exuberance they demonstrated a while ago, I am almost tempted to request that the next housing development should take place in the constituency of Point Fortin. So that, I too can demonstrate the kind of exuberance that has been demonstrated here today.
Today, we are following the vision led by our Honorable Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley who has led the charge for Vision 2030. Theme 1, Goal 3 speaks about nurturing people who are our greatest assets. This is what we are about to do ladies and gentlemen, because it’s about satisfying what Maslow describes as the basic needs of man – food, clothing, shelter. Today we are satisfying one of those needs by providing affordable housing to the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. And so I believe that with Project 5000 as I call it, we will certainly reduce the housing deficit in Trinidad and Tobago as one of the slides showed a while ago.
We have approximately 180,000 Trinidad and Tobago citizens on the database waiting for affordable houses. Nowhere in any part of the world can any government satisfy that kind of demand and therefore, there must be alternative measures be must seek to satisfy our citizens with respect to housing.
This government is very cognizant of the fact that decent shelters remain a top priority for many of our citizens. No doubt we understand that fully, notwithstanding our limited economy, not withstanding our economy conditions, notwithstanding what we have been going through over the last four years, the Ministry together with its agencies, the HDC, the TTMF (Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Finance Company Limited) and the Land Settlement Agency, have been able to successfully deliver affordable, innovative and sustainable housing solutions to a number of our citizens through the length and breadth of Trinidad and Tobago.
This has involved the implementation of several initiatives, some of which are public sector driven while others like the Public Private Partnership, which we have demonstrated here today, has yielded a great deal of comfort to the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago. Together with the Housing Construction Incentive Programme we have been able to offer a suite of incentives used to attract and enhance Private Sector Investment. I believe today, that Phase 1 of Project 5,000 units is a demonstration that this government, creative as it is, will use public/private partnership to the benefit of our citizens.
The PPP and HCIP initiatives allow the government, through the Ministry of Housing and Development, to create wholesome communities that not only provides affordable, well-designed, attractive housing units, but also recreational spaces and commercial centres for low and lower middle income families.
We feel that we not just providing houses but creating communities, we are shaping communities. Hence, the reason when you saw the diagram, a picture paints a thousand words, you saw communities not just houses not just physical infrastructure but we go beyond that and create physical recreation spaces, community centres so that communities can now develop and redefine themselves to the benefit of the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
Under the Public Private Partnership arrangement there are several developments underway all over the country which will yield approximately 1,600 units over the next two years and this will be done for deserving applicants from the housing database.
The Housing Construction Incentive programme which was introduced in fiscal 2017/2018 has attracted a growing interest and continues to develop.
Any person or developer or contractor who has demonstrated the ability, to finance, build and sell housing units in accordance with the specific guidelines and prices stipulated by the HDC, is eligible to participate in this programme.
Today ladies and gentlemen after a year of negotiations, the Housing Development Corporation and the China Gezhouba Group International Engineering Company Limited, commonly referred to as CGGC have arrived at a mutually agreed position for the design, build and financing of 5,000 new housing units in Port of Spain South and San Fernando West and that’s just phase one ladies and gentlemen. Phase 2 which will certainly be demonstrated later down involves two other areas in the country. Phase 1 will be constructed at a cost, as mentioned in the slide a while ago, of US$71M.
The contract being signed today is for the initial construction of 204 units at South Quay POS and 235 units at Lady Hailes Avenue in San Fernando, with the state providing the lands and the CGGC providing finances and technical capabilities.
Other contracts will be signed under this blanket agreement once the lands that have been identified for the other units have undergone the planning and development work stages.
The government’s objective is to complete at least 6,000 housing units, 6,000 housing units by fiscal 2020, a tall order, ladies and gentlemen, but we know that it is achievable, if we put all the efforts of this government to ensure that we deliver at least 6,000 units by 2020 ladies and gentlemen.
The introduction of the national housing bonds is another aspect, another initiative of this government led by Dr. Keith Rowley. The National Housing Bond for citizens will be issued in the next couple of months and this too will be used to boost the HDC’s capacity to construct more housing units which will benefit applicants of Trinidad and Tobago.
These efforts are not only for the short term but will augur well for the housing construction programme in the long term with the proceeds from mortgages issued by the Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Finance Company Limited being used to finance further developments and sales of new housing stock.
The government in keeping its promise to ensure accessibility to affordable housing solutions revised the mortgage regime to increase the income and property bands so that more persons can realize their dreams of home ownership.
For us, ladies and gentlemen, this government believes that these housing initiatives are a win-win situation, win-win outcomes for the government, for the people and for the contractors because opportunities are being created in which we can all benefit in the long run.
In addition to the economic benefits, these initiatives ultimately provide opportunities for persons to become homeowners and enjoy all of the attendant benefits that are associated with homeownership including an improved standard of living but more importantly as one of the slides showed a while ago, we will ensure that there’s local content, the transfer of knowledge and the transfer of skills will take place in these developments. So not only a straight relationship between the contractor and the physical construction of these entities but we ensure that at the end of the day, citizens of Trinidad and Tobago will benefit through employment, through transfer of knowledge and of course the inner plan, being the business opportunities around these two developments.
Ladies and gentlemen it is this government’s remit that we will continue to ensure that our citizens achieve self-actualization, by firstly providing them with the appropriate shelter they require so that they can be comfortable to contribute to the development of Trinidad and Tobago. The Government led by Dr. Keith Christopher Rowley emphasizes that we must put people first, that means our people must be comfortable and all the economic might, all the economic resources are to be used for the benefit of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.
Project 5000 is one such initiative to ensure the wider development of Port of Spain, the wider development of San Fernando but as I said before the other two projects are spread throughout the length and breadth of Trinidad and Tobago.
When you put that together with the Ministry of Housing’s remit we have seen within recent times that we have distributed a number of houses, a number of homes, a number of communities over the last couple of months. We have been in Point Fortin, Arima, Port of Spain, East and Central – throughout the length and breadth of Trinidad and Tobago, trying to satisfy as much as possible the demands of our citizens to live in affordable housing communities.
This government will continue in our vision 2030 quest to ensure that we put people first. I want to thank the contractors, the Chairman and the Board of HDC for bringing us to this point, also I want to thank the government and the Prime Minister led by Dr. Keith Rowley for the vision of the housing benefit for the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
Thank you very much.