Land Settlement Agency HVIP Key Distribution
Feature Address by
The Honourable Camille Robinson-Regis, MP
Minister of Housing and Urban Development
Government Campus Plaza Auditorium
3-4 Richmond Street, Port of Spain
Tuesday, December 13, 2022 1:30 p.m.
- His Worship Alderman Joel Martinez, Mayor of the City of Port of Spain
- The Honourable Colm Imbert, Minister of Finance and the Economy and Member of Parliament for Diego Martin North/East
- The Honourable Foster Cummings, Minister of Youth Development and National Service, and Member of Parliament for La Horquetta/Talparo
- The Honourable Pennelope Beckles, Minister of Planning and Development and Member of Parliament for Arima
- The Honourable Marvin Gonzales, Minister of Public Utilities and Member of Parliament for Lopinot/Bon Air West
- The Honourable Adrian Leonce, Minister in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, and Member of Parliament for Laventille East/Morvant
- Ms. Nirmala Ramlogan, Permanent Secretary (Ag.), Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
- Mr. Wayne Inniss, Chairman of the Land Settlement Agency, and other members of the Board of Directors of the Land Settlement Agency
- Mr. Chinua Alleyne, Chairman, East Port of Spain Development Company Limited
- Mr. Hazar Hosein, Chief Executive Officer of the Land Settlement Agency
- Heads of Division and staff of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, and of the Land Settlement Agency
- Beneficiaries of the Housing and Village Improvement Programme
- Members of the media
- Other specially invited guests
- Ladies and Gentlemen
Good afternoon everyone!
Today, exactly 12 days before Christmas, we are gathered here to distribute keys to 91 new two-bedroom houses that we fondly refer to as starter homes. While there will be no partridges in pear trees, turtle doves or French hens, in these 12 days before Christmas, I am sure you will agree with me that these new homes are much better. They will make a real difference in your lives.
From Princes Town to Morvant, from Guayaguayare to Valencia, we are keeping the promise we made in our Roadmap to Recovery and Vision 2030: to leave no one behind. From the onset, I want to thank everyone who turned out today – people from the villages just mentioned, in addition to the other beneficiary communities: Diego Martin, Arima, Bon-Air North, Morvant, Demerara/Wallerfield, St. Augustine, Point Fortin, and San Fernando.
As a government, we could not let this year come to an end without ensuring that you enjoy this season in your new homes. They were already close to completion, up to the starter-home level, so today we give thanks to the staff of the agency of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, the Land Settlement Agency (LSA), for ensuring that persons were brought to this stage, where we can hand you the keys. I say “close to completion” because, as you know, one very important aspect of the Housing and Village Improvement Programme (HVIP), is that you get an opportunity to put your finishing touches on it. You get to make it your own, in substance and in style.
Today, for you, is very significant because your government is delivering on its promise to you, but it is also very significant because of what it took to deliver. Some of you may remember that we began this year with health professionals confirming 17 Omicron COVID 19 cases in Trinidad and Tobago. We were therefore still very cautious about what 2022 would bring. As many feared, Russia invaded Ukraine, causing a worldwide hike in food prices, in gasoline, and in raw materials for construction, so for us to have completed these homes on time and within budget is a tremendous accomplishment.
And we are not stopping there! We are far from finished! While we hand out keys to 91 homes today, we have another 120 currently under construction, and for fiscal year 2022/2023 (fiscal 2023), the LSA is projected to construct an additional 275 starter home units. This will add to our current total tally of 423 units since inception. These new units will be built in fiscal 2023 as part of 50 Village Improvement Projects across the country, including at: Bon Air, Embacadere, Sangre Grande, Diego Martin, Demerara/Wallerfield, Couva, Point Fortin, Claxton Bay, Morvant/Laventille, Princes Town, San Fernando, Guayaguayare, Tunapuna, La Brea, Moruga and St. Joseph.
These last two years, like the rest of the world, our fiscal breathing room tightened. Like many families, government ministries had to do more with less. Though our budgetary allocation increased as an absolute number, our workload also increased. This is because, as a caring government, we know we are here to serve the people who put us in government just as much as those who did not.
This is why, although we all agree that we need to cut unnecessary spending, this administration, under the leadership of the Honourable Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, will not cut any programme like the Housing and Village Improvement Programme because it helps us to fulfill our core purpose: to give citizens access to adequate and affordable housing. This is how we, at the Ministry, put people first, and nurture our greatest asset. That is why, instead of cutting, we more than doubled the budgetary allocation to the Housing and Village Improvement Programme (HVIP). The budgetary allocation increased from twenty-eight million dollars ($28,000,000) in fiscal 2022 to fifty-eight million dollars ($58,000,000.00) this fiscal 2023.
Stifling the housing sector, or giving money to contractors who did not complete the houses they were supposed to build, as a previous administration did in the past, hurts the nation. On the contrary, what this government is doing accelerates our recovery. It strengthens our economy. It provides jobs to people and small businesses in all the above-mentioned villages and more. Indeed, since it started in 2017, in addition to the aforementioned, the Housing and Village Improvement Programme also helped families in Moruga, Rampanalgas, Talparo, Claxton Bay, Oropouche, Naparima, Tabaquite, Las Cuevas, and Beetham Gardens, just to name a few.
This government is very much aware, and proud of the trickle-down effect featured in the Housing and Village Improvement Programme. This is why in August this year, Cabinet approved an increase in the number of households that can benefit from the Housing and Village Improvement Programme by creating a new subsidy structure that facilitates the construction of houses on undulating and/or hilly lands.
This decision was taken, noting that there were several applicants residing in undulating and/or hilly areas who met all the requirements for intervention in accordance with the Housing and Village Improvement Programme policy but who could not benefit as contractors found it challenging to undertake works due to the higher costs of construction on these terrains.
Accordingly, Cabinet approved the introduction of a three-tiered subsidy structure based on land topography and an increase in the maximum subsidy applicable for the construction of a two-bedroom housing unit from $145,000 to:
- i) $165,000 for construction on flat lands;
- ii) $170,000 for construction on undulating lands; and
- iii) $175,000 for construction on hilly lands.
This three-tiered subsidy structure, based on land topography, is being introduced for all ongoing and future construction of houses.
What we need is precisely the approach we are taking – an approach that would allow us to build many more starter homes for many more families. We cannot afford to, and will not stop or slow down our investments in housing, in education and in infrastructure.
Already, people are working together all across the country to raise their standard of living. I know that most of you here can attest to that. That is how you have your starter homes now. That is how your government was able to give you this good start.
When the LSA starts looking at a site for improvement, it looks at the quality of the existing housing, the household size, its composition, the occupants’ employment status and income levels, but it also looks at prospective beneficiaries’ willingness to work for what they want; in other words, your willingness to do your part.
This is why, I congratulate all of you here today, you are all champions here, because if you have come this far, it means that you have done your part, and for that you deserve my most heartfelt congratulations.
If everyone who wanted a house from the government were to focus on what they could do to help themselves, just like you have, we could reach our Vision 2030 goal much faster. Our economy will also grow faster. And the standard of living of every Trinidad and Tobago national would rise. As a government, that is what we want for you, that is what I am sure you want for yourselves, and that is how we will build this country into one that rewards the efforts and hard work of every Trinidadian and Tobagonian.
To the new homeowners, again on behalf of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and this Government, congratulations!
I wish you a happy and holy Christmas. Thank you all, and may God continue to bless you.