The Honourable Randall Mitchell- Feature Address- Housing Allocation Ceremony – Dec 02, 2017
Good Morning to you all!
Let me first congratulate you on this stage in your life’s journey. Home ownership is an important step. A step that you should take very seriously and one which, I assure you, will provide many rewarding experiences.
I truly am delighted to be here with you this morning as we continue to deliver on our promise to provide you with affordable housing units to meet the housing needs and aspirations of you and your families.
Ladies and gentlemen, you have heard a lot of talk about changing the paradigm and bearing the burden of adjustment. These statements arise out of our changed economic circumstances and the consequences that we face as a Nation.
It is indeed no secret that our country has been made to cope with incredible shortfalls in revenue as a result of a number of factors, including a drastic reduction in energy prices, all contributing to the perfect storm.
As a government and as a country, we have been made to all bear the burden of adjustment and to do a lot more with a lot less. And we have been doing a lot more with a lot less. For example, under the previous administration, one of these distribution ceremonies could have cost up to 683 thousand dollars. I kid you not. Why would the last government spend up to 683 thousand dollars when all you want to do is get your keys and go home to your new homes. Today, one of these ceremonies will cost up to 15 thousand to 20 thousand dollars.
As Minister of Housing and Urban Development I can confirm for you that our team at the Ministry and at the various agencies are driven and focused on providing affordable housing opportunities to improve the quality of life for our citizens.
So what have we been doing for the past 2 years?
I am proud that we have been able to re-start many of the previously stalled HDC housing projects that have been under construction for the past 10 years. I am proud that we at the HDC and at the Ministry of Housing have been decisive. That we’ve managed to ensure that ALL housing projects met by this Administration Continue so that they can be completed and distributed to qualifying housing applicants just like you in the shortest possible time. Our focus is on you! On putting people in house.
TAX INCENTIVES AND MORTGAGE PROGRAMMES
At the Ministry of Housing we have also been able to expand our Affordable Mortgage Programmes at the TTMF to ensure that more and more citizens can access more affordable financing to purchase their housing units.
We have also completed the Regulations and the Processes to ensure that Traders in Houses and Lands, that is, persons who build affordable houses or develop affordable lots of land for sale to citizens can now enjoy tax free income from the sale of those properties. This was done to encourage more private sector participation so that citizens are not entirely dependent on Government for housing.
AIDED SELF HELP
The Government ‘s Aided Self-Help Housing Programme, which was launched three weeks ago, has received a lot of positive attention from low to middle income earners who want affordably priced land to construct their own homes. It also caters to those citizens who have land who require some technical assistance to get through the steps to construct their homes.
Through this initiative, we have chosen to empower citizens to take charge of the construction of their own homes with financial and technical assistance from the state. To date, quite a number of completed application forms have been submitted. And we are looking forward to walking hand in hand with the beneficiaries as they construct their own homes.
These are just some of our moves to shift the paradigm, where, in spite of our challenging economic circumstances, we have been able to bring innovative housing solutions to meet the growing demand for affordable housing. Again, you the citizen are at the centre of our focus.
But as we adapt to our new economic circumstances, there are hard decisions that we have to take. We have to eliminate inefficiencies and injustice in the our Public Housing system. As revenues become scarce, and funding for public housing dwindles we have to find ways to continue to deliver to those who need affordable shelter the most.
There is one particular injustice in subsidized public housing that has come to our attention and is most glaring now. It is an Injustice that we at the Ministry of Housing and at the HDC plan to address quite firmly in Calendar 2018.
It is the issue of Subletting. Subletting in the case of Rental Units and units subject to Licence to Occupy Agreements. I mean persons renting out their units to others.
There are consistent reports reaching the HDC about housing unit beneficiaries on either rental arrangements or LTO arrangements who are subletting – Renting out those units to other families or individuals at much higher rates than they are paying to the HDC.
This is contrary not only to the terms and conditions of the Rental Agreements and the Licence Agreements, but it is also contrary to the Housing Policy.
In some cases, tenants with rental Agreements with the HDC for certain properties at rates of about $500 or $800 per Month are subletting those properties, that is, renting those properties to other persons and families for $2,500 and $3,000 per Month.
This is Manifestly Unfair and Wrong. If a beneficiary of a public housing unit from the HDC is subletting that unit, it more than likely means that he or she is NOT in need of Affordable Housing. Not in need of Public Housing.
This Injustice has to stop. And I am putting those persons engaged in unlawful subletting on Notice that we are going to treat very firmly with this practice.
Very shortly, in the New Year, we are going to set up a system of reporting, where we will be encouraging persons who are renting these units or anyone else to report these practices to the HDC.
An in turn, the HDC will consider implementing a policy where those persons who are renting and are in actual occupation report these matters to us, the HDC will investigate and if found to be true, the HDC will terminate those original arrangements. Once Terminated, the HDC will give Priority to those persons in actual occupationonce they meet the Qualification Criteria.
The HDC’s mandate is to provide affordable housing to low and middle-income earner in need,And Not to provide opportunities for the Creation of Landlords who unlawfully sublet these units for big profits.
This practice must stop and these heavily subsidised units must go to those who need them most.
So Ladies and Gentlemen, by your presence here today I take it that you have agreed to observe all your obligations under your Agreements as you take possession of your new homes.
In closing, I want to again warmly congratulate you again. We at the Ministry and at the HDC will continue to work diligently in the interest of the Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago in ensuring that affordable housing solutions are made available to all those who need them the most.
I thank all those members of the team. Ministry Staff and the Staff at the HDC who continue working to ensure that these events come off and that you move towards home ownership. In particular, I thank the Allocations team for all their hard work over the past few months.
Thank you also to the Service Providers for coming out and offering your products and services and I encourage you to take advantage of their offerings.
On behalf of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and the HDC, please accept my best wishes for a safe and enjoyable Christ filled Christmas.