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Monday 23 October 2017
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Houses for hundreds

Housing Minister Randall Mitchell flank by HDC Chairman Newman George right and Managing Director Brent Lyons left as they tours the HDC Vieux Fort Housing Development in St James , 137 apartments units in four buildings will soon be available here.25-08-17 PHOTO SUREASH CHOLAI

There will be 700 fewer people on the Housing Development Corporation's (HDC) waiting list for homes by year's end, following the expected delivery of units in several housing developments across Trinidad.

This was announced by Housing Minister, Randall Mitchell, during a media tour today of five under-construction HDC developments along Trinidad's East-West Corridor.

"On or before the end of the year, we will have approximately 360 units that will be added to the housing stock. Throughout the country, we should have about 700 on or before the end of the year that will be added."

This will include, by the end of September, 44 apartments in Building A of the Vieux Fort Housing Development in St James. Another 78 keys are expected to be given out by December, when 36 single family units and 42 townhouse units at the Real Spring Housing Development in Valsayn are scheduled to be completed.

These are phase one units in two of five HDC housing developments for which the total construction cost is approximately TT $1.2 billion.

After visiting Vieux Fort and Real Spring, the media was then taken to see Bon Air North in Lopinot/Bon Air, Trestrail Lands in D'Abadie and River Runs Through in Arima.

"It's TT $140 million for Vieux Fort in St James. Real Spring Housing Development (in Valsayn) is $114 million. For this development; Bon Air North, $398 million. Trestrail Lands (in D'Abadie); those 100 units as well as the townhouse units, that is $564 million, I believe, and for River Runs Through (in Arima), the contract price was around $48 million," Mitchell said.

In total, these five housing developments would cost about TT $1.2 billion. In all, the ministry has 23 active construction sites, which Mitchell estimated "would add about 4,500 units to the overall housing stock" by 2020 at an estimated total cost of $2.4 billion.

Asked what sort of dent these 4,500 units would make on the HDC's waiting list, the minister replied, " Not a significant dent because there are 170,000 persons on the data base."

He noted however that the five sites toured today form part of the ministry's "Accelerated Housing Programme, which is just one programme under our overall housing policy."

"There are some other initiatives we're bringing forward under the Ministry of Housing; you will hear about it (and) our Squatter Regularisation Programme...in the (upcoming) budget presentation."

The ministry is doing construction at each development in phases, so that as units in phase one are completed, they can be given out to prospective home owners who have submitted applications to the HDC.

Whether units are sold, occupied on a rent-to-own basis or simply rented out, Mitchell said money coming in from the occupancy of phase one of these developments will go towards financing the remaining phases.

"We have prioritised a lot of our developments. So for example, in Vieux Fort, we've done it on a phase by phase basis and the money coming in from Victoria Keys (in Diego Martin) would be used as collateral to entering into a loan to fund the completion of Vieux Fort on a phase by phase basis."

"With respect to Real Spring, (that) will also be completed on a phase by phase basis. In fact, the contractor has funded the first phase and the monies that we will get from the allocations of those first 78 units, as well as other monies coming in from our mortgage conversions, we will fund the additional phases."

Mitchell also shared that in terms of Bon Air North, "at the end of first phase, we will have 92 units; both townhouse units and apartments which will be done on or before the end of the year, and we will go onto the other phase."

"Of course, with respect to the economic climate, the way we fund our housing construction programme is partly through Government sources as well as through our mortgage conversion programme."

Regarding the speeded up delivery of completed homes to HDC applicants, Mitchell told reporters the ministry and the HDC had "realised that over the last years, there was some time lag between the delivery and allocation, and during that time, there was vandalism, theft."

"Of course, we also realised that, that is a cost burden to the HDC, so we need to allocate them and of course, the home seeker, who really desperately needs shelter, we have them first and foremost in our development plans."

Asked about the money HDC owes contractors, Mitchell said, "right now, about TT $700 million" for the 23 sites currently under construction. An HDC official noted that as contractors are paid, new invoices are certified, "so as we go down (in what's owed), we go back up."

Meanwhile the Housing Minister was keen to point out the higher quality of work being done at River Runs Through in Arima, thanks to a 22-point Quality Assurance Plan that he came up with in conjunction with HDC Chairman, Newman George and HDC Managing Director, Brent Lyons.

"In the past, one contractor would have been given, say, a $1 billion contract to do 700 units and they would just do the units and when they are finished, then you would discover all the problems. Now, construction is done via a protocol. So before you do your foundation, the project managers must sign off. After you put up your block walls, the project managers must come and sign off and before you get paid as well, all these things must be signed off and quality checked. So that is what makes it different and I'm sure you can see the difference in quality with our townhouses and our single family units here," Mitchell declared with a smile.

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