AS he turned the sod to mark the start of construction of City Heights Development in San Fernando on Tuesday, the Prime Minister challenged the private sector, which may “have millions stashed away,” to invest in housing to stimulate the economy.
Rowley said there is a demand and a ready market for the private sector if it should seize the opportunity. Such an investment, like City Heights, he said, can remedy the housing shortage, provide homes for those in the middle and upper-income brackets and leave the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) to return to its core function of providing homes for those most in need at the lower-income end.
At present, Rowley said, there are 191,000 people on the HDC’s waiting list, including first-time owners. He said even at the rate of constructing 10,000 homes annually, Government would still not be able to make a dent in the list.
He explained that owing to the vast improvements in HDC housing units, more people have come to rely on Government for their homes.But it is just not a realistic goal, he poinetd out, as at its best, construction of houses undertaken by the HDC is between 3,000 and 4,000 units.
He said many on the list are earning salaries far in excess of the requirement for HDC homes, and these are the people the private sector could target.
City Heights is an initiative of the Furness Group of Companies, which has partnered with Home Solutions and the government to construct three six-storey buildings at Mon Repos, on five acres of land which previously housed the Furness Ice Factory.
The residential, gated community, to be constructed will provide 90 apartments, consisting of two- and three-bedroom units, which will cost $1.2 million and $1.5 million respectively.
The units will go on the market in November and completion is earmarked for within 30 months. Units will be delivered in the 24th month.
Saying he is looking forward to returning to open the first door, Rowley said he had a vision of entering San Fernando from the north and seeing St Joseph Village on one hand and City Hights on the other.
Returning to the issue of private partnership arrangements, Rowley said, “We know you have some money put aside somewhere, Furness Group, and there are other groups who every 12 months make so many millions in profit. Put some of these resources into housing.
“The demand is there. The willingness is there. The skill is there and if you do that, it would not only satisfy the individuals who get their housing unit that you build, but it would drive the economy in a way that very few other activities would drive the economy...
“There are few activities that can drive an economy like a housing-construction programme, whether it is in China, Japan, Taiwan, USA, TT – because there is so much involved in constructing a housing project like this. There are so many different people involved, from the architect to the engineer, to the labourer – all kinds of skills involved, for those who work in the quarries, those who make the blocks – all of these people are involved in building a housing unit."Once there is an active housing programme, he said, "You have economic drivers going on.”
CEO of the Furness Group of Companies William Ferreira said he was happy to be back on the site his family has occupied since 1845, moving away from making ice to building something more substantial – houses.
He said four years ago his company’s board decided to make better use of the land and create a stylish and affordable housing community, in keeping with the mandate of the Prime Minister.
“It is our love for the country that drives us with the passion to move with this project. Going forward, we have some other key developments, commercial properties, which demonstrates our commitment and confidence in the economy of TT and its leadership.”
Director of Home Solutions Luis Dini, a Venezuelan who has lived in this country for 19 years, said after leaving for a while, on his return he was delighted by the dramatic changes to San Fernando and wanted to be part of its development.
“We will build here a landmark, a special community. Everybody will talk about City Heights,” Dini said.