Urban Upgrading and Revitalization Programme Subsidy Agreement Distribution Ceremony
The Honourable Camille Robinson-Regis, MP
Minister of Housing and Urban Development
Large Conference Room, Level 2,
Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
South Quay, Port of Spain
Wednesday, October 26, 2022
● The Honourable Adrian Leonce, Minister in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and Member of Parliament for Laventille East/Morvant
● Other Heads of Division and staff of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development
● Beneficiaries of the Affordable Housing Subsidies
● Members of the media
● Ladies and gentlemen
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Safe and affordable housing plays a critical role in providing a sense of stability to all families, but is perhaps even more meaningful for those families at the lower end of the economic scale. All the studies indicate that the absence of safe and suitable housing accommodation for families often leads to lower income generating opportunities, lower educational attainment for children, and a range of other negative implications for the wider society.
It is against this backdrop then, that this Government in which you have reposed your confidence, has committed to providing appropriate housing solutions particularly to the most vulnerable. The Urban Upgrading and Revitalization Programme was designed to provide housing solutions to eligible citizens who aspire to enhance their quality of life, not so much for themselves, but more importantly, for their children. Upward mobility for families who work hard and play by the rules is a fundamental value long upheld in Trinidad and Tobago. We, at the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development believe it is also part of our mandate to promote such mobility for less-advantaged families.
Your Government was mindful of this when a committee appointed by the Honourable Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley charted a Roadmap to Recovery and set Social Protection, as our Number One Objective, ensuring that we leave no one behind.
To this end, 25 eligible families who have completed a very vigorous but necessary screening process, will receive subsidies today, either for home construction or for home improvements through the Urban Upgrading and Revitalization Programme. Indeed, I can say that one criteria that had to be met, and is scrupulously enforced is a maximum monthly household income of $8,000. Today, the 25 beneficiaries of new subsidy agreements are: 17 for Home Improvement (with a value of $20,000.00 each) and 8 for Home Construction (with a value of $50,000.00, payable in two tranches of $25,000 on proof of progress).
The 25 beneficiaries here today, represent hundreds of families from across the national landscape, including beautiful places like: Longdenville, North Oropouche Road, Tarouba North, Phase 4 La Horquetta, Tacarigua, Edingburgh 500, Diego Martin, Morvant, Arima, St. Augustine, Mt. Lambert, Barataria, Tunapuna and Biche.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Urban Upgrading and Revitalization Programme is perfectly aligned not only with the Roadmap to Recovery objective, but also to Goal Number Three (3) of our Strategic Development Plan for the country, also known as Vision 2030 which is to ensure that all citizens have access to adequate and affordable housing.
In furtherance of this objective, the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, signed a six-year loan agreement with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on August 3rd 2020 to provide the necessary funding for this programme. I hasten to add, ladies and gentlemen, that thus far, we have been able to hit all the agreed upon milestones for this programme, and look forward to providing assistance to many more families through this agreement.
It is also anticipated that the Urban Upgrading and Revitalization Programme will contribute significantly to our achievement of the medium and long-term goals of reducing poverty in Trinidad and Tobago. While we acknowledge that there is still much we have to do, and many more people to help, we earnestly believe are clearly on the right track.
There is general agreement too that the 1,995 subsidies already processed (of which 1,188 were for Home Improvement Subsidies and 807 were for Home Construction Subsidies) have uplifted the standard of living thousands of families from just about every region in our country. The programme’s momentum is evident that even during the touch Covid-19 Pandemic, thousands of lives were positively impacted and we envisage that, over the next few years, thousands more will benefit.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is no idle boast we make when we declare that the signed Agreements being delivered to our 25 recipients today, is a clear indication of this Government’s commitment to improve the quality of life of every single citizen of this blessed Republic.
Since December 2020, these subsidies have been effective in helping approximately 2,000 low-income families raise their standard of living, through improvements to their homes or construction of new housing solutions. Residents of local communities have also benefitted as construction works have allowed single-mothers, tradesmen, labourers, semi-skilled workers and their respective families to earn an income, whilst also increasing revenues for hardwares and other construction material suppliers. This, of course, has the knock on advantage of creating ripple or multiplier effects leading to increased economic activity.
Ladies and gentlemen, there is another very highly laudable feature of this programme, which relates to its emphasis on households that are headed by women. In its publication, Women and the Right to Adequate Housing, the United Nations has noted that many of the people who live in precarious conditions around the world are women. From discriminatory practices to lack of access to legal and other remedies, women face forced evictions, degraded living conditions, and sometimes cultural and religious subjugation when it comes to housing.
Under the Urban Upgrading and Revitalization Programme, women and female head of households are deliberately targeted to benefit. It is for this reason, among others, that 17 of the 25 recipients or a whopping 68 percent, of those receiving either Housing Construction or Housing Improvement Subsidies today are female heads of households. We also know that when money is placed in the hands of women, it always seems to stretch further and achieve more, than when it is placed elsewhere.
My friends, both the social and economic case for keeping this programme going has been well made: improved living standards for thousands of Trinidad and Tobago families; more work and opportunities for wealth creation for hardwares, tradesmen and women, and semi-skilled labourers; as well as the establishment of stronger, more resilient communities with housing built to thrive in, and with the environment.
Raising the living standards of thousands of families is an ambitious goal, but today, this government, your government, is placing it well within your reach. This is more evidence of us honouring our commitment to you.
As a Government, we have outlined our plan to make affordable, quality housing available to more families and this plan includes improving the current stock of housing through subsidies like the ones you are signing for today.
Only yesterday, I was privileged to be part of yet another instalment of our “Home for Christmas” programme where we distributed keys to 60 families, for houses completed across the vast HDC network. Yesterday’s distribution brought to 165 the number of families who would have benefitted from this programme. More importantly, it brought to 362, the number of families who have now benefitted from either completed houses, starter houses, fully developed housing lots, or Certificates of Comfort over the last few months. When we add the 25 families who will benefit from these subsidies, we have a total of 387 families benefitting from state-sponsored housing assistance. And over the next few months, I ask you to look out, because your name might be the next one called as a recipient of one of these forms of assistance.
Because, ladies and gentlemen, that is what we intend to do in the weeks and months ahead, and for as long as I am Minister of Housing and Urban Development. Today, I give you my word that, daily I, as part of a responsible and caring government, will diligently work to honour the promises we have made to you.
As I want for my own, the dream of increased opportunity for economic, social and educational advancement is what I want for you and for your children. No matter how difficult times are, no matter how many obstacles stand in our way, no matter how the pandemic may have succeeded in delaying our progress, we are going to keep on fulfilling our promises! I am going to keep doing everything in my power to make a qualitative difference in the lives of the people of Trinidad and Tobago!
In closing, I take this time to thank all the staff of the Programme Monitoring Coordinating and Evaluation Unit, ably led by Mr. Jeffrey Reyes, for working to ensure that so many families benefit from these subsidies. I also thank all staff of this Ministry who work and support the work of the Unit and the Programme.
Thank you to all, and may God bless this beautiful Nation of Trinidad and Tobago.