Tobagonians were encouraged to have their say as the THA Division of Settlements, Public Utilities and Rural Development and the National Insurance Property Development Co Ltd (Nipdec) prepare to build 53 homes at the Riseland housing development.
At a public consultation on Monday at the Carnbee/Mt Pleasant Community Centre, the division’s administrator Carl Murray said the project started in 2019 with initial discussions, and in 2020, the THA and Nipdec signed a contract for the design and construction.
The division, he said, has as its main mandate to improve the living standard of every Tobagonian. He said the aim is to provide safe and affordable housing as much as possible, ensuring fair and equitable access to public utilities for all, as well as contributing significantly to both rural and urban spaces in Tobago.
“The intended housing development caters for the construction of 25 single and 14 multi-storey family units, and that is going to be quite significant. The Division of Settlements, Public Utilities and Rural Development considers your participation and your input of utmost importance if we are going to improve your standard of living.”
Presenting an overview, Nipdec’s senior programme manager Julia Warner-Etienne said the architectural designs are complete and the infrastructure designs substantially complete.
She said the consultation was convened to complete the application for the certificate of environmental clearance (CEC).
As well as the 53 units, she said, “We also have a recreational area, we have a spot for a nursery school, we have two commercial areas so that business can take place in the area – a little shop, a hardware store and things like that. We also have spaces for a retention pond, that’s to deal with the drainage, and a sewage treatment plant.”
She said it is important to note that there is a WASA station on the site.
The site has approvals from Town and Country Planning, EMA, WASA, TTEC and the THA Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and Urban Development.
In terms of the timelines, she said there is a plan to turn the sod in June.
“We expect by July, we would get the CEC and final approvals from Town and Country Planning. We would award a contract in August and commence the infrastructure in August. The housing contract, we would tender that out between August and December, and commence (the) housing in December. The works would be completed in November 2024, with a defects period which runs for 365 calendar days, but that would not prevent people from occupying the houses: it would just be the period during which the contractor would respond if there were any issues.”
The division’s secretary Ian Pollard said as soon as the RFPs go out and a contractor is selected, the division would try its “utmost best” to have the project completed on time and within budget. He said through this project there would be lots of opportunities.
“Let us utilise these opportunities. Women in the food industry, you know what is coming: prepare your breakfast, do the lunches, bring it in a motor car – so something, some economic generation.
"Young men, come off the streets – there’ll be jobs available.
"It is my intention to see as (many) Tobagonians employed as possible. There is enough economic activity for people to start to generate income on the island, and it is something that we are clamouring for.”
Electoral representative for Bethel/New Grange, which incorporates Riseland, Terance Baynes said he is both encouraged and elated that this project is happening in his district, noting that there is a serious housing issue across the island, especially among the younger population.
“A significant percentage of young people are in a rental situation and so on, and it looks sometimes almost impossible for you because of the prices of real estate now, and lands, and to build a house. It seems as if that is something that you may not accomplish in your lifetime.”