The Hon. Major General (Ret’d) Edmund Dillon- Feature Address- Hunger Banquet, 2019- Habitat for Humanity
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It’s a pleasure to be here this evening at this gala event to lend support to Habitat for Humanity’s Hunger Banquet initiative which contributes much needed funding for the many projects that are carried out by the organization’s local chapter, Habitat Trinidad and Tobago.
I also want to take this opportunity to congratulate Habitat for Humanity Trinidad and Tobago on its twenty-second anniversary. In so doing I acknowledge the workthat has been carried out locally by Habitat Trinidad and Tobago over the past twenty-two years.
The team’s hard work and dedication under the guidance of its National Director, Ms. Jennifer Massiah is a demonstration of the Organization’s commitment to being a catalyst for change. This is done through the provision of shelter options to low and lower middle income families as well as through its advocacy initiatives and training opportunities in areas ranging from construction skills, financial literacy and management, technical and life skills, disaster mitigation and disaster risk reduction. As such, the efforts of Habitat Trinidad and Tobago in changing the circumstances of deserving families in our society, must be applauded.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, together with its implementing agencies, is mandated to stimulate national development, by transforming the country’s urban landscapes as well as providing affordable housing solutions in a holistic and responsible manner and that is what we do at the Ministry.
The GoRTT through the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development continues to provide shelter options through public sector initiatives to change the circumstances of deserving citizens. This is articulated in the National Housing Policy of 2002 and the National Development Strategy (Vision 2030) document.
Implementation of the Ministry’s mandate is guided by the Goal of Putting People First: Nurturing our Greatest Asset. As such, The Ministry and its agencies, namely the Housing Development Corporation, the Land Settlement Agency, the East Port of Spain Development Company Limited and the Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Finance Company Limited are engaged in the provision of well-designed, affordable housing solutions with affordable mortgage arrangements as well as the provision of land tenure security for eligible persons occupying state lands.
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago is only too aware that despite our best efforts, and particularly given our economic conditions at this time, we will not be able to fully satisfy the need for shelter, especially among our low to middle income groups.
At present, five percent (5 %) of all housing units within a given development are allocated to deserving senior citizens and persons living with disabilities.
All other eligible persons are afforded the opportunity to be selected for the Ministry’s housing programme through a random selection process because of the ever increasing demand for public housing; at the moment there are approximately 176,000 applicants on the Ministry’s database.
However, this government remains fully committed to improving the living conditions of low to lower middle income families all over this country.
We, at the Ministry, understand only too well what homeownership means to these families and have taken steps to make public sector housing more affordable and accessible than ever before for low to middle income groups through the State’s Housing Programme.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, through its various agencies, has been able to deliver affordable, innovative, sustainable housing OPTIONS, by revitalising stalled projects, starting new home construction and creating new housing initiatives. We have also introduced affordable financing regimes for mortgage acquisition. We are also regularising squatters and facilitating their ability to acquire Deeds of Lease, where applicable.
This administration understands that home ownership is not simply about constructing and distributing housing units. “Home ownership” for this administration, is about providing quality, safe and affordable units for deserving families, who require assistance from the State.
As such, the government recognises and is committed to creating wholesome communities with the provision of affordable, well-designed houses, recreational spaces and commercial centres for the growth and development of low to lower middle income families.
In this regard, we view the work undertaken by Habitat for Humanity in Trinidad and Tobago as functioning in tandem with the initiatives of the Government in providing simple, decent, and affordable housing and improving the current housing stock.
As Minister of Housing and Urban Development with responsibility for the public housing sector I am truly appreciative of the benefits to be derived from the Ministry’s symbiotic relationship with Habitat Trinidad and Tobago as we individually and collectively seek to improve the living conditions of deserving families within our society. One such benefit is the offer of soft interest free loans by the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity to recipients of the Ministry’s Grants Programme as part of its Micro Built initiative. I am told these loans go a long way in providing additional funding to complete many more home improvement projects that the Ministry’s grant funding is unable to meet.
In conclusion let me say that this Government will continue to review its housing policy so that it remains viable within our local context. We will also take whatever steps that may be deemed to be of interest to the citizens of this country so that the state’s housing programme remains affordable and accessible to those who need it most.
We also remain committed to improving the physical and social conditions of all citizens, particularly those in the low to lower middle income groups.
The Ministry will continue to reengineer and innovate policies and programmes so they remain relevant to the local, regional and international context; to this end, we will look at possible areas for collaborative effort and meaningful partnerships in order to promote community-led development, environmental sustainability and the provision of affordable housing solutions.
I want to join with Habitat Trinidad and Tobago in encouraging all public and private sector stakeholders with respect to housing matters to work with us in transforming our society through these kinds of symbiotic and synergistic partnerships.
I thank you for your attention and trust Habitat Trinidad and Tobago will continue to go from strength to strength.