The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, through a random computer-generated draw, selected 70 former Petrotrin workers who will each receive a residential plot of land.
In a ceremony at the ministry in Port of Spain on Tuesday the minister, Pennelope Beckles, distributed the first batch of residential lots to first-time homeowners, as part of their termination benefits.
“To the former Petrotrin workers, thank you for your service to Petrotrin and to TT, but thank you most of all for your patience. Today indicates your government and country have not forgotten you.
She said each lot will be 5,000 square feet and each recipient will be given a 199-year lease.
Minister of Energy and Energy Industries Stuart Young said the decision to close the Petrotrin refinery and restructure in 2018 was not taken lightly.
He added, "Petrotrin was never shut down, despite what others say. The refinery was closed and Petrotrin was restructured.”
He said the government not only issued $2.2 billion in cash payments, but also promised workers a distribution of land.
The distribution will be done in two categories, he said: residential lots for first-time homeowners and agricultural plots for those with agricultural interests.
Beckles said agricultural plots are next on the schedule.
"You will also benefit from the financing from the Agricultural Development Bank (ADB) for your business plant, for up to $500,000."
She said those who were not chosen on Monday will go back to the pool for the next draw.
“What you are seeing here is momentous. I am happy to be here as we see the draw of the first 70 lots for distribution for these workers.”
Beckles said the database includes over 1,400 applications. The 70 applicants drawn on Tuesday will be published later.
She said the cost of the land, infrastructural development of the lots, administrative and legal costs will all be paid by the state, while the recipients must pay all post-lease property-related taxes and fees.
"As many of you know, more land and property are coming to more Petrotrin workers. This is but the first. Cabinet approved that lands for Petrotrin workers will be distributed at La Romaine II, La Romaine; Allamby Street, and Golconda, San Fernando; Glenroy II, Princes Town; Balmain, Couva; and Guapo, Point Fortin."
She said Cabinet approved other residential lots being sourced from the Housing Development Corporation (HDC), Greenfield developments, the Estate Management and Business Development Company Ltd (EMBDC), surplus lots from 22 estates leased to Caroni (1975) Ltd to be made available to the public, and lands vested in Heritage Petroleum Company Ltd.
"We chose to ensure that no former Petrotrin worker will be homeless," she said. "Some may want to sublet, transfer or sell the land later on, as their lives take different turns, and they will be able to do so after about ten years. But our immediate concern is to take care of the former Petrotrin workers now, and to help them meet their housing needs, in as early a time frame as possible."
She said the ministry, through the TT Mortgage Finance Company (TTMF) will make subsidised loans available for those eligible. Cabinet also agreed that agricultural plots of minimum of two acres will be distributed to eligible employees.
"For the agricultural land, the standard lease will be renewable every 30 years. Beneficiaries will be expected to bolster the nation's food security for at least ten years."