KEY DISTRIBUTION CEREMONY
Ms. Simone Thorne-Mora, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
Mr. Newman George, Chairman, Housing Development Corporation and other members of the Board
Mr. Brent Lyons, Acting Managing Director, HDC
Management and Staff of the Ministry and the HDC
Key Recipients o Members of the Media
Good afternoon and welcome to today’s Key Distribution Ceremony!
I know that you are anxious to receive the keys to your new homes so I promise you that I will not be very long.
With exactly one week to go before Christmas and two weeks before the end of the year, it is timely that we spend some time to reflect on the year that was; as we look toward the future with much promise and hope. Always remembering to give thanks for the opportunities that have come our way and more so, the challenges.
Christmas brings out the very best in all of us, but as someone once said, “Christmas is not a date, it is a state of mind”. We at the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and the Housing Development Corporation feel the same way too. We are only too happy to give of ourselves so that we can help to change the fortunes of those we serve. As such, I wish to thank the Board, Management and operational teams of the HDC for their tireless efforts in making this event today and the others we have held over the past four weeks, very successful.
I also wish to thank the Permanent Secretary and the team at the Ministry for ensuring that my orientation and assumption of duties were seamless so that I was able to literally hit the ground running when I assumed office as Minister of Housing and Urban Development in March. Since assuming this position some nine months ago, I have spent a considerable amount of time ensuring that we set relevant and attainable strategic objectives which will help the Ministry to better serve the citizenry of this country. Having spent a great deal of time establishing these objectives, we are in active implementation mode now as we seek to complete a number of citizen-centric initiatives and operationalise the Ministry’s mandate to alleviate some of the challenges faced within the housing and urban development sectors.
Ladies and gentlemen, a lot of what we have been able to do over the last year, is as a result of our clear understanding of our vision to provide quality, affordable home solutions for those that require Government’s intervention.
Our vision is supported by the Ministry’s housing policy which was first created by a PNM Government in the 1990s. From that policy, 5 came the Ministry’s Accelerated Housing Programme, which is the most prolific housing programme ever to be implemented in Trinidad and Tobago. You see, because of that policy and this progressive housing programme, the PNM Government (between 2002-2009) was able to construct over 15,000 housing units to provide relief and comfort to deserving citizens; unlike the former People’s Partnership Government who was only able to do approximately 4000 units in their 5 years in office.
Ladies and gentlemen, you are fully aware that our country’s economy is not as strong as it was in the recent past. However, we as a Ministry, are still grateful that we have been able to do so much with so little financial resources over the last year. Here are just a few initiatives we have implemented to help you get closer to your dream.
- We reverted the approved income ceiling from $45,000 to $25,000 in keeping with the Ministry’s Allocation Policy. In this way, low to middle income earning families like yourselves who qualified for housing, will not get left behind;
- We revised the mortgage financing regime so that the TTMF can now offer competitive rates. Now, the qualifying income of persons eligible for the 2% interest rate, has moved from $10,000 to $14,000 and they can now access properties valued between $850,000 and $1M. Those earning between $14,001 to $30,000 can now benefit from a 5% interest rate and can access properties valued between $1M and $1.5M;
- Since assuming office, we returned the HDC to its original mandate, which is to construct affordable housing accommodation for deserving low to middle income applicants on the Ministry’s database;
- In order to achieve maximum occupation of our developments, the Ministry injected much needed funds to assist with the completion of several housing projects which were stalled or simply unfinished by the last Government. We have been distributing these (and others which were completed under the former PNM Government’s time) as soon as they become available;
- We turned sod on three sites along the East-West corridor where the housing deficit is at its most critical. These sites are 7 located at Arima, Bon Air and Mount Hope and are expected to provide 348 units. This will come as welcome news for potential homeowners who are interested in accommodation along that part of the country. Plans are also underway for the sod turning at two other venues – Trestrail in D’abadie and Gomez Trace in Moruga.
- One of the major things we accomplished this year was the adoption of the Public-Private Partnership procurement model which allows us to harness financial and other resources within the private sector to complete some of our housing projects. The Mt. Hope housing development is the first project to be constructed using this model and we are expecting many more projects to follow.
- The Government of Trinidad and Tobago through the Minister of Finance has also introduced several tax incentives for housing developers which are expected to encourage more investors to partner with us as we achieve our mandate. There has been a lot of interest in this initiative so we are expecting greater things in 2017;
- The HDC also finalised and formalised an agreement with local telecommunications service providers so that residents in HDC developments can now choose their preferred telecommunications and home entertainment provider and enjoy all the modern requisite utilities to be able to live comfortable and active lives;
- The Victoria Keyes Housing Development, on which construction began in 2006, has been completed and will be formally launched at the start of 2017.
- Lastly, the Ministry continued its home improvement grants and subsidies programme so that low to middle income families can maintain the integrity of their homes and reduce the demand for new stock from the HDC.
So, ladies and gentlemen, we are the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and the HDC have been working. We have been working hard so that you can reap the benefits of our hard work. We understand what home ownership is about and we understand what quality affordable shelter offerings can provide to families.
- Every time I preside over these Key Handover events, I make every effort to urge home owners to continue to meet their financial obligations with the HDC. This includes conversion of the Licence to Occupy, Rent to Own and Rental arrangements to mortgages. You see, the benefits of complying are two-fold – You, the potential homeowner will have security of tenure and will also have the opportunity to create a wealth asset that will keep on appreciating in value;
- Secondly, the mortgages will provide a revenue stream for the HDC so that they can construct new homes and maintain existing rental properties for the benefit of hundreds of families. Won’t you want to assist others so that they too, will be able to live in comfortable dignified conditions? I am sure you do, so please do your part and honour your commitments.
As we continue with our home delivery drive, let me just say that we have delivered almost 1200 units for the year already and will continue to hand over keys well into the new year.
There is no denying that housing is an essential and worthy pursuit. We at the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and the HDC can appreciate the desire that so many of you describe to us when we meet or interact with you. I want to take this opportunity, which is already so full of promise, to assure you of our commitment to fulfil our mandate. We know that we need to keep providing affordable housing so that we can whittle away at the deficit, one family at a time.
On behalf of the staff of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and the HDC, please accept my best wishes to you and your families. I do hope that you have a blessed holiday season and a brighter, more prosperous 2017!