$b FIXER-UPPER LOAN – HDC targets 1,800 ‘new’ units for repair

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Returning HDC chairman Noel Garcia and Housing Minister Camille Robinson-Regis, centre, with members of the new HDC board and other HDC officials as the board members receive their instruments of appointment at the company’s head office in Port of Spain on Tuesday. – ROGER JACOB

THE Housing Development Corporation (HDC) intends to spend some $1 billion to complete 1,800 stalled homes and construct an additional 1,000 new homes by the end of the year.

Speaking with the media at HDC’s South Quay head office on Tuesday after he and his board members were given their instruments of appointment, returning HDC chairman Noel Garcia said the board had a lot of work cut out for it.

“This board has some lofty targets. Our first target this year is to complete 1,800 units that were stalled projects and do housing starts of just over 1,000 units. So for 2023, we’re expecting to have 2800 houses, 1,800 will be for distribution and the other 1,000 will be in different stages of completion.”

At a key distribution ceremony last year Housing Minister Camille Robinson-Regis said the HDC will be embarking on an extensive repair programme, using small to medium contractors for rental units at Maloney, Chafford Courts, Almond Court and San Fernando. She added that $400 million was set aside to restart stalled projects and pay contractors who were owed.

Stalled HDC projects have been the proverbial thorn in the sides of many a housing minister. In 2018 the Prime Minister blamed internal fighting in the party for a stalling of Vieux Fort, St James, which stalled for over a decade.

The project was stalled after a discrepancy in the Cleaver Heights project in Arima, and reports of $10 million going missing triggered the Professor John Uff Commission of Enquiry into construction that halted several HDC projects.

Two years earlier Dr Rowley blamed other stalled projects on the Opposition saying they were left abandoned at the stage of “virtual completion” in 2007.

Other stalled projects throughout the country were blamed on political victimisation where politicians were accused of not completing projects in their political enemy territories.

Real Spring, Valsayn; Oasis Gardens, Chaguanas; Edinburgh Towers, Chaguanas are some of the areas where units were stalled and were vandalised.

In 2017, then housing minister Randall Mitchell said 190 units were vandalised between October 1, 2015 and September 30, 2017 and were costing some $80 million to repair.

He told the Senate then that the units were vandalised as a result of “remaining unoccupied for extended periods of time” adding that when his government got into office in 2015 there were some 1,200 HDC units unoccupied.

A year earlier he said the government was embarking on a sell “as is” campaign where vandalised homes were to be sold without repairing them.

During the budget presentation last September, Finance Minister Colm Imbert announced that HDC was borrowing $1.5 billion to pay contractors, build new homes and complete stalled projects with a $500 million planned allocation for each.

On Tuesday Garcia said HDC had some 10,000 units across the country that needed to be maintained and HDC would be placing emphasis on maintaining the stock. He said the HDC would be on a drive to ensure that tenants paid their rents as well as mortgages which would contribute to funding the maintenance of the houses.

“I want to give the assurance to the people of TT that they will see an acceleration of the delivery of houses and in particular affordable housing. For too long, the HDC has neglected what I would term the minimum-wage earner. So we’ll see a return to the delivery of rental units in Chaguanas, Port of Spain, Diego Martin and Central and South Trinidad.

With HDC restructuring soon there will be a main company with three subsidiary companies which Garcia said should be up and running before the end of June. The board has already been appointed and has met he said with the companies now recruiting staff.

The subsidiary companies are: The HDC Construction Company Ltd to manage property development, land acquisition, urban planning and project and construction management. The HDC Facilities Estate Management Company Ltd, to manage HDC properties, provide administration for HDC’s management companies and HDC Asset Management Company Ltd will be responsible for completing sales and providing administrative support for housing developments under its purview.

Garcia said of $1.5 allotted to HDC, $500 million will be used for new projects and HDC are having discussions with Royal Bank and the Inter American Development Bank for a $1 billion loan.

“We are confident that we’ll be able to carry out our mandate to provide affordable housing in sufficient quantities in that period 2023 to 2025. We are also going to step up our conversions so that when we build houses and we sell houses, that money will come back into the pool to allow us to continue.”