Housing Development Corporation More Ways to Pay Launch
The Honourable Camille Robinson- Regis M.P
Minister of Housing and Urban Development
January 16, 2023
Government Campus Plaza
Richmond Street, Port-of-Spain
- The Honourable Adrian Leonce, Minister in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and Member of Parliament, Laventille East/Morvant
- Ms. Nirmala Ramlogan, Permanent Secretary (Ag.), Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
- Ms. Joanne Deoraj, Chair, of the Board of the Asset Management Company Limited (AMC) and Members of the Board
- Mr. Keston McQuilkin, Chairman of the Board of the Facilities and Estate Management Company Limited (FEMCOL) and Members of the Board
- Members of the Board of the Construction Company Limited
- Richard P. Young, Chairman of the Trinidad and Tobago International Financial Centre and Members of the Board
- Mr. Sean Roach, Chairman Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT)
- Mr. Stephen Tang Nian, Chairman Gambling (Gaming and Betting) Control Commission
- Mr. Eustace Nancis, Chairman National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB)
- Ms. Jayselle McFarlane, Managing Director of the Trinidad and Tobago Housing Development Corporation
- Dr. Deborah Thomas-Austin, Managing Director of East Port of Spain Development Company Limited
- Mr. Robert Green, Chief Executive Officer Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Finance Company
- Mr. John Outridge, Chief Executive Officer, Trinidad and Tobago International Financial Centre (TTIFC)
- Ms. Lisa Agard, Chief Executive Officer, Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT)
- Heads of Department at the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
- Divisional Managers and Senior Managers of the Trinidad and Tobago Housing Development Corporation
- Our Valued Partners
- Members of Staff
- Distinguished Guests
- Members of the Media
Ladies and gentlemen, it is indeed my pleasure to be with you here today as we mark yet another red letter day in the continued evolution of the Housing Development Corporation. Today’s launch of the More Ways to Pay initiative, is not simply about ensuring that clients of the HDC are provided with more ways to honour their obligations to the Corporation, but more importantly, it signals this Government’s intent to get on with the business of digitalization, and becoming a cash-less economy.
Increasingly, you will be seeing more and more state organizations following the path being set by the HDC. Indeed, only recently as well, the Public Transport Service Corporation announced its intention to go cash-less for those seeking to access specific services. This is the way forward, and as we enter into 2023, I give you the assurance that even greater strides will be made to ensure that citizens can transact business with the Government from the comfort and security of their homes.
I am certain that citizens would have taken note of the excellent strides made by the HDC over the last few months to simultaneously deliver on its mandate to provide safe and affordable housing solutions to the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, and improve its operational efficiency. In 2022, the HDC ensured that over seven hundred families received keys to their new homes, bringing a measure of relief to them that they had long anticipated. These families joined the tens of thousands of owners of government subsidized housing spread across the length and breadth of Trinidad and Tobago.
I am pleased to report that this Government has honoured its commitment to contractors and suppliers of the HDC. By the middle of this month – January 2023 – the full drawdown of five hundred million ($500M) would be utilized by the HDC to settle outstanding payments. Within the next month, the HDC, is expect to commence the drawdown of the one billion dollar ($1B) loan facility, for payment of outstanding liabilities, and to fund the construction of new housing units.
In keeping with the policy directive of the Government, the HDC has been converted to a holding company, and now stands as the parent company for three (3) subsidiary companies, an asset management company a facilities management company, and a construction company. Each charged with a very specific mandate, but all designed to ensure greater efficiency in the conduct of the HDC’s affairs. The Governance model of these three (3) companies has been established and all systems are in place for their operation. We earnestly believe that by focusing extensively on these core areas of responsibility, the HDC will achieve its desired transformation into a more agile, customercentric, and profitable company.
Within the last few months as well, the HDC opened its doors to multiple investors as we seek to attract and encourage more public private partnerships in the housing industry. For 2023, the HDC expects to construct approximately 900 housing units, under the public private partnership (PPP) arrangement. These units will be constructed in City Heights, San Fernando, Eden Gardens, Freeport, Tres Trail, D’Abadie, Corinth Site B, Corinth Site C, Mahogany, Malabar Site 1.
Our history tells us that when construction of any kind, especially housing is in the ascendancy, there is more money circulating in the local economy, thus benefitting more and more persons on the lower end of the economic spectrum. The Government is not unmindful of this, and therefore is actively seeking out ways to mop up the excess liquidity in the market, by providing opportunities for investors to obtain a better return on their investments.
Even as the HDC moves assiduously to increase its efficiency, to improve its governance structures, and deliver on its mandate, there is one pillar of its operations that remains its Achilles heel – the receipt of monthly payments by its clients.
I am not telling tales out of school when I say that there are tens of thousands of delinquent HDC clients who fail to meet their monthly obligations to the HDC. In July of last year, the net figure owed to HDC by delinquent clients was in the vicinity of $200 million dollars. This is unacceptable and represents a betrayal of the trust which the HDC has reposed in its clients, and which must be corrected.
Ladies and gentlemen, failure on the part of HDC’s clients to honour their legal obligations is not merely a matter between the individual home-owner and the HDC, as that delinquency impacts the very viability of the HDC, and its ability to both service its own obligations to contractors and continue to provide much needed housing solutions for more deserving and eligible citizens.
Such delinquency, ranging at approximately 40 percent, renders the HDC hard-pressed to meet its objective of providing safe, sustainable, and affordable housing options to its customers in a timely and efficient way. The “More Ways to Pay” therefore, is a set of options now being provided to clients, on a phased basis, in order to honour their legal obligations to the HDC. It is intended to remove any hassle, inconvenience, or impediment to clients who sincerely want to pay their debts to the HDC.
Apart from the traditional methods of payments, that is, through salary deductions and over the counter payments, the HDC will now introduce, on a phased basis, a series of online options through which customers can honour their obligations. The HDC’s Managing Director, Ms. Mac Farlane has already itemized the different options now available to clients, so I will not repeat them.
Suffice it to say though, that the introduction of these new options represents a giant leap forward for the HDC, in terms of its continued evolution. In introducing these additional ways for clients to honour their obligations, the HDC is seeking to relieve itself of the burden of cash collection at its three (3) main locations, which currently account for the vast majority of payments for the homes it manages.
Today’s launch of the “More Ways to Pay” initiative, would not have been possible without the invaluable input from our partners, the Trinidad and Tobago International Financial Centre (TTIFC) and the Telecommunication Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT).
The initiative is expected to provide the HDC’s clients literally with more ways to pay for their rental and mortgaged properties, reducing existing barriers, both perceived and real which prevent them from making their payments. This new online payment platform was developed by TSTT and is integrated with payment service providers such as PayWise, Google Wallet, PayPal, Apple Pay and other payment solutions. This solution will be implemented on a phased basis to ensure that HDC’s clients benefit from this online solution as it evolves. The HDC can now boast of being the first officially recognised government corporation to provide cashless payments through its partnership with the TTIFC.
Through this collaboration, TSTT e-PAY will provide the technology and payment gateway infrastructure for the online payment solution, which will accept cash and other payment methods in addition to credit and debit cards. I am advised that the solution will allow a customer to enter their HDC information into a simple payment landing page and then select a payment method and amount to be paid. It is our expectation that credit and debit cards, as well as cash from agents and e-wallets, will be accepted payment methods eventually.
Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to close by reiterating the plea made by the HDC’s Managing Director to all HDC clients, to please utilize these additional options to honour your legal obligation to the HDC. Your mortgage arrangement imposes upon you a legal obligation and invests the HDC, as your landlord, with certain powers and authorities should you fail to honour those obligations. Eviction of delinquent home owners will always be a last resort for the HDC, but I remind homeowners, it is also an option that is always available to the HDC as landlord.
I urge homeowners, delinquent homeowners, to come into the HDC and begin the conversation about the payment of your arrears. We have worked with you in the past and we will continue to work with you in the future. During the height of the pandemic, this Government demonstrated its caring by allowing homeowners who might have either lost their jobs or had their monthly incomes reduced, to come into the HDC and make certain arrangements. We are therefore not averse to listening and meeting you half way, but you must meet us along the way as well, or face what is an inevitable, though regrettable conclusion.
Today, I wish to thank the Executive and management of the HDC, as well as the principals of TSTT and the TTIFC for their collaboration with us. I look forward to great results from this initiative, as we walk confidently into 2023.
I thank all of you for the courtesy of your attention, and wish the abundance of God’s favour on you and your families for 2023.