Delinquent tenants and homeowners owe the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) an estimated $130 million, said Minister of Housing and Urban Development Pennelope Beckles.
Saying this ongoing problem needs to be addressed, the minister added the HDC needs to pursue its mortgage conversion and sales programme.
She spoke at the HDC’s key distribution ceremony on Monday at Lexus Villas, Lexus Boulevard, Marabella.
“Monies due and collected by the HDC will provide the agency with the revenue stream it requires to pay contractors, maintain and rehabilitate existing rental properties," Beckles told the recipients. "It can even build more housing units so others too can experience the joy you are feeling today.”
From the units being distributed on Monday, the HDC stands to collect approximately $16 million from revenue sales where mortgages have been closed
It also stands to collect $12 million under licence to occupy arrangements once the sites are closed and the properties converted to mortgages.
Lexus Villas has 102 townhouse units, each with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
A total of 56 people received their keys to homes there, and in other areas in south and central Trinidad.
Owing to covid19 measures, only 25 attended the ceremony. The 31 others simultaneously got their keys at the HDC’s offices.
Another issue engaging the ministry’s attention is unscrupulous individuals using the HDC’s name to prey on unsuspecting people, many of whom have become frustrated by the process of allocation of public housing. Beckles recalled that the HDC had mounted several media campaigns cautioning and informing people of the correct procedures over the years.
Yet, she said, scamming continues to be a scourge on the housing landscape.
“We are urging people to adhere to the advice given. Do your due diligence before parting with your hard-earned monies and protect yourselves from these scammers who only wish to benefit from your vulnerability,” Beckles said.
“Remember it is illegal to exchange money with people falsely representing themselves in order to secure an HDC house. You and the person can and will land yourselves in trouble with the law if caught.”
She emphasised that while the scammers are guilty of impersonating HDC staff and defrauding people, those who pay them are also guilty of a crime.
To people who give scammers their money, Beckles said: “You too are culpable in this act. I therefore urge all those who may be so inclined to desist.”
Minister in the Ministry Adrian Leonce, HDC chairman Noel Garcia and acting managing director Bryan Jackson also attended the event.
Speaking to the media afterwards, Garcia called on tenants and homeowners to pay the HDC on time.
He warned, “The HDC is stepping up its drive to collect outstanding money.
"At the same time, we are cognisant of the fact that these are difficult times. We are urging our tenants to come in and have a discussion with us.
"Do not just stop paying. We are prepared to work with our stakeholders. People who can pay, do the responsible thing and pay.”
At the ceremony Jackson said there are plans to improve customer service at the corporation.
“Some of the areas include the implementation of a modern and functional call centre and PBX system, the introduction of SMS messaging, greater digital access, and more frequent updates on projects,” Jackson said. “At present, we have a very active and dynamic presence on social media and we intend to continue using these platforms to increase the information that we provide to you (the public).”
On payment options, Jackson said as of December, the HDC extended the cashiers' hours at its Port of Spain and San Fernando offices to facilitate clients who make payments directly.
“In 2020," he added, we also formalised a partnership with SurePay to allow our clients to make payments at any Sure Pay payments centre.
"We have also facilitated Direct Transfer payments and installed drop boxes in the past year. Work is also in progress on the finalisation of online payments via our website.”