The first house under Tobago's Home Ownership Made Equal (HOME) programme has been signed, sealed and delivered to Kyean Bruce and her 11-year-old son Azion Orr.
The partially visually-impaired mother of two was the first recipient on the THA Division of Settlements, Public Utilities and Rural Development’s social housing project, as she received her keys on Friday after a brief ceremony outside the house on Teak Avenue East in Milford Court, Bon Accord.
THA Chief Secretary Farley Augustine said the mandate is to provide homes for those who would never be able to afford any home built and sold by the Assembly. He said there are several Tobagonians who can’t afford any piece of land anywhere, nor any home on the market. He said when those most vulnerable are looked at, their income could barely meet their needs at the end of the month, such as to buy groceries, far less to provide a quality home for their families.
“And so the challenge for us Tobago, is that we have to do something about that. The Tobago I know is a Tobago with a thing called lend hand, where we found a way to help each other build at literally next to no cost on labour. That is because we recognise culturally that in order for us to have safe communities, we have to have safe homes for everyone residing in our communities.”
He said through the HOME project the targets are single mothers, guardians with orphans, seniors over the age of 65, vulnerable groups, disabled and many others. He said a mixture of state-owned lands as well as abandoned government quarters will be repurposed.
The house handed over to Bruce, he said, was completed in 21 days.
“The foundation took three days to complete and the house itself took 18 days to complete – 21 days in total and we had a completed home. To me, that is a landmark achievement.”
The work was done by EJ Engineering who volunteered the labour for “free. It is an engineered structure.”
Electoral representative Joel Sampson said he is indeed grateful to his colleagues at the division who led the team responsible for the HOME project.
“Not only does this programme offer housing but it is focused on providing such to the most vulnerable among us. This administration acknowledges that these populations must be provided with the requisite support needed to improve their circumstances. Not only do we acknowledge but we continue to make the necessary policy changes to ensure that this change is provided.”
Secretary of the division Ian Pollard said Bruce first applied in 2016 outlining her circumstances. He said seven years later, her dream is now a reality.
“Thank you, Miss Bruce, I know you’re surprised but that’s how I do my work – quietly.”
To other people interested in benefitting from the project, he said: “To all Tobagonians, every development that has lands available would be given out by Assistant Secretary (Niall) George and I – everyone and not only in these old developments but in the new developments to come. That is our mandate, to provide affordable housing to our citizens.”
He said these types of homes are available to everyone but the socially-displaced will be given first preference.
“We have been given a mandate by our chief to have 20 of these houses built by the end of June. We have a listing of 75 people that are needy, plus TEMA (Tobago Emergency Management Agency has a listing of over 100 to send to us. Every day the chief keeps on moving the goalpost.”
With tears in her eyes, Bruce overwhelmed with emotion echoed the sentiments that “dreams do come true.”
“I give God all the praise and the honour and the glory. Dreams do come true – I remember going to Mr Pollard and stating my case to him and he said to me, 'Miss Bruce, it stops here. I promise you that it stops here.’ This drive that they’ve started I want it to continue because people like me with a disability, we have no voice, so I am glad that this happened. What they’ve put on stream it is going to go on for people in my situation.”