The Housing Development Corporation (HDC) expects to earn about $2 billion from the conversion of rental units into mortgages, money that will be used to complete housing developments across Trinidad.
Housing Minister Randall Mitchell provided reporters with an update on the mortgage conversion thrust following a key distribution ceremony yesterday, at the HDC’s Couva Village Plaza on the corner of Parrot Avenue and Lisas Boulevard, Lisas Gardens, Couva.
“We have converted about 837 units, at a value of $317 million, for the fiscal year 2016 to 2017. If we take a look at the rate of conversion from 2015 to now, we’re probably close to $600 million. That money is being used to complete all those outstanding housing developments and to construct more units to be able to distribute to people seeking affordable housing. The focus, though, is on completing all of the unfinished developments.
“We have verified about $2 billion in rental units to be converted. We’re looking at about $500 million a year in conversions. The number of units per year varies because the units cost different amounts. When we assumed office, the HDC would have owed contractors about $800 million. Today it’s a revolving figure because as they complete and send in invoices, the amount owed is hovering about $700 million but we are ramping up our mortgage conversion caravan, so that we can get in money as fast as possible to pay those debts and to construct new units.”
The keys to 55 houses were given out during yesterday’s ceremony to HDC developments in Bon Air, Arouca; Corinth Hills, San Fernando; Cypress Gardens, San Fernando; Exchange, Couva; Ridgewood Gardens, Golconda, San Fernando; Olera Heights, San Fernando; Pier View, La Brea; and Malick, Barataria. Mitchell said the keys for between 1,300 and 1,400 homes had been given out for the year so far with, at least, 500 more homes scheduled to be allocated by year’s end.
Asked if there were any “left-over” units from the 100 houses per week distribution which his predecessor, Roodal Moonilal, had started shortly before the 2015 general election, Mitchell told reporters that ended up having negative consequences for the housing stock. “The former regime delayed the distribution of houses until close to the election, so they could do this PR campaign of giving out 100 homes per week. Under this administration however, as soon as units become available, we are distributing them. Under the previous regime, the delay in handing out those units until close to the election would have left these units (vulnerable) to vandals and criminals to come and steal. That is what we would have found.”
Mitchell has, previously, spoken about the current administration having to spend money to repair vandalised units which it found upon assuming office in September 2015, at a time when there was a shortfall in Government revenue.
Regarding the initial public response to Government’s Aided Self-Help Housing Programme, which Mitchell launched on Friday, he said there’s been a lot of interest on social media.
“A lot of people are excited about the programme, not just the distribution of lots but more so, Government walking side-by-side with those beneficiaries to get them towards the completion of their homes.”
Asked if there was a need to improve the HDC emergency housing policy, following the recent fire which left several Sea Lots families homeless, the minister said no problems had been identified.
“Actually, the Minister of Social Development has assisted those Sea Lots residents already – it has home repair grants and rental grants – but I believe the MP for the area, Marlene McDonald, has contacted the HDC and they are being looked at in terms of temporary emergency housing.”
The HDC has a Social Services and Community Development Department, which Mitchell noted deals with situations such as the elderly couple that was living in a tent in the Queen’s Park Savannah.
“The policy is comprehensive, those people are interviewed, means testing is done, before allocation. I want to remind, however, that while we can’t assist everybody, we will certainly do our best to assist those most vulnerable and most in need.”