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Christmas relief for 500 applicants

By Miranda La Rose Sunday, November 11 2012

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Government has begun the move to establish 15 new housing estates across the country at an average cost of $400 million per estate, Housing Minister Dr Roodal Moonilal has said. The plan would therefore see Government spending an estimated $6 billion in housing over the remainder of its term in office.

Moonilal told Sunday Newsday he plans to deliver 6,000 new housing units by mid-2014, with the first batch to be delivered by mid-2013.

“Over the next year and a half, we intend to complete 6,000 new housing units,” Moonilal told Sunday Newsday by telephone on Friday.

“Most of the money is for infrastructural works,” he said, noting that the drive will also provide employment for hundreds of citizens in the interim.

Work on some of the estates, including the housing development at Egypt Trace, Chaguanas, which has been renamed “The Oasis”, is well underway, and is poised to enable Government to hand over 170 single housing units by March next year.

Work will begin on a number of the other estates before the year ends, Housing Development Corporation (HDC) Managing Director Jearlean John told Sunday Newsday.

The new HDC estates will be developed at Cypress Hills, Union Hall, San Fernando, where 800 units are to be built; Fairfield, Princes Town, 524 units; Hubertstown, 250 units; Exchange Phase Five and Six, Couva, 170 units; Trestrail Farms, Arima, 1,200 units; Pineapple Smith, Macoya, 800 units; Pierre Road, Felicity, 90 units; River Runs Through, Arouca, 96 units; Eden Park, Couva, 275 units; Freeport, 300 units; Bon Air North, 416 units; Edinburgh Towers, Chaguanas, 118 units; Morvant, 34 units; and Malick, Barataria, 34 units.

Meanwhile, Moonilal reiterated that 500 housing units will be distributed in time for Christmas to persons who applied for housing, including 150 applicants who have been waiting for keys to their own homes for ten years and more.

Since the People’s Partnership Government took office, Moonilal said, “we have delivered over 3,000 units. We distribute about three houses a day outside of the media spotlight”.

A total of 49 town houses in the Maracas Housing Development, St Joseph, and 55 single housing units and 180 apartments will be ready for distribution in East Grove, Curepe, in time for Christmas, he said.

Other areas where housing units will be distributed, John told Sunday Newsday, will include Corinth, Exchange Village (Couva); Greenvale, Malabar; Enterprise, Chaguanas; Golconda and La Horquetta.

The housing units in the Maracas Housing Development were built by Alpha Engineering and Design Limited, she said. Contractors working on the East Grove Housing Development include Trinity Housing, Nicholas Plumbing, Nardel Construction Company, Basco Hardware Store and Tropical Holding.

The Maracas Housing Development began in 2007, and the East Grove Project in 2005. They began under the previous administration. Some of the housing started under the PNM, Moonilal noted, had to be remodelled and others repaired due to faulty construction. The HDC, he said, was solving the problems related to those units. Some units at Las Alturas were also demolished due to faulty construction.

Some units in north Trinidad and Diego Martin will become available by next March, he said, noting the units at Victoria Keyes and Vieux Fort will take longer.

The Victoria Keyes project will cater for 282 units, and Vieux Fort in St James will provide an additional 126.

Funding has been a problem, but this too, he said, is being resolved.

Meanwhile, the first batch of the housing units being developed exclusively by the People’s Partnership administration, he said, “will be completed and handed over to new homeowners by mid-2013”.

The first batch of the new housing units is being built in four phases at Egypt Trace, where Government bulldozed the lands of farmers who were illegally using the area in April 2011 to make way for housing.

A total of 850 housing units are being developed on the 116-acre estate by contractor Motilal Ramhit and Sons.

HDC Senior Clerk of Works Carlton Mansingh, who oversees work on the project, told Newsday during a recent tour of the site that some 130 single housing units in the first phase of the project were nearing completion, and construction was well underway on 47 town house apartments. Each single housing unit is 1,250 sq feet and comprises three spacious bedroom facilities on the land which, Mansingh noted, could easily provide for a flower garden in front of the house as shown in the “model house” — the first erected on the site — and with lands at the back of the house for a kitchen garden.

“Spaces have been allocated for a secondary school, a community centre, recreation ground and a police outpost,” Mansingh said.

The idea is to make the area environmentally friendly “with a lot of green spaces”, he said. Electrical cables are being built underground and detention ponds are also a part of the plan to minimise floods in the area. Who is eligible for HDC housing units?

John said any national of Trinidad and Tobago who wants to own his or her own home is eligible to apply, but allocation is based on certain criteria. However, based on a Cabinet minute, she said units will also be allocated in cases of emergencies and consideration will be given to the aged, differently-abled and for national security purposes.

Rental for the aged and differently-abled is usually negotiated downwards to meet their needs based on their levels of income.

Assessments will also be conducted for persons who wish to own a home in the “rent to own” category and for licence to occupy (rental).

Pricing for sale and rental of units is determined by Cabinet, John said. HDC Corporate Communications Manager, Renata Jones, told Sunday Newsday many applicants are often disappointed after being assessed by the Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Finance because debt ratios and age factors might not qualify them for a single housing unit.

However, she said they may still qualify for housing in an apartment building.

On complaints that persons are reported to be owning more than one HDC housing unit, she said, “We encourage persons with such information to provide it to the HDC.”

The HDC, she said, has a battery of lawyers who investigate such allegations. “We have internal processes to verify whether or not persons are property owners.”

On reports that some people who just entered the system had got houses while others who applied several years ago were still waiting, she said the HDC has over 150,000 applicants who need housing but that they have to pass certain criteria.

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