Garcia: No decision to build houses at Todd Street

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

HOUSING Development Corporation (HDC) chairman Noel Garcia. –

HOUSING Development Corporation (HDC) chairman Noel Garcia said the HDC has not taken any decision to date to construct houses on one hectare of land on Todd Street in San Fernando. He made this comment in response to a question from Opposition Senator Wade Mark during a virtual meeting between HDC officials and members of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) on Wednesday.

In a statement on October 28 on behalf of a group of concerned citizens, Pundit Rudranath Maharaj said the group has several concerns about the construction of three apartment buildings in a green space between the San Fernando West Secondary School (to the north), San Fernando Central Secondary School (to the south), Todd Street (on the west) and privately held lands in the area.

In a video of a sermon held at the Todd Street Mandir on October 30, Maharaj claimed at a previous meeting with stakeholders, San Fernando West MP Faris Al-Rawi could not give any assurances about no houses being built on the land in question.

He said, “We are not stopping. We are not backing down on this issue.”

Maharaj said the group has the support of all stakeholders in the area and has assembled a legal team to help them if necessary. The group has written to Planning and Development Minister Pennelope Beckles-Robinson and Housing and Urban Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis to request a meeting with them to discuss their concerns about the proposed housing project.

Maharaj also called upon the Prime Minister to rescind a Cabinet decision taken with respect to this proposed project

At a news conference in Port of Spain on October 30, Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal referred to a Cabinet note dated September 8, 2022 in which Cabinet agreed to the transfer of one hectare of land to the HDC for “the development of multi-housing, with an estimated yield of 72 apartment units.”

Responding to a question from Mark on this matter, Garcia said, “I can tell you that no such decision has been taken to construct three apartment buildings (at Todd Street)

The only decision taken by the HDC is to examine the possibility of building houses at that location. Garcia said similar exercises are taking place in other parts of the country such as Arima and D’Abadie.

The HDC does not take arbitrary decisions when comes to building houses in any part of TT.

Garcia said, “The HDC adheres to the law.”

He added that once an assessment of the proposed site at Todd Street is done, a recommendation would be made to the HDC’s board of directors which could either be accepted or rejected.

Reminding PAAC members there are approximately 191,000 people who have applied for HDC homes, Garcia said the corporation always assesses state-owned land throughout TT to determine its feasibility for housing.

Mark told Garcia about lands which are available for housing outside of San Fernando in places such as Golconda.

After acknowledging Mark’s point, Garcia said the HDC’s housing construction is also guided by where in TT is the housing demand the highest.

“Yes there is land in Golconda. Yes there is land in Blanchisseuse. But it may be difficult in putting up an HDC development in Blanchisseuse because the (housing) demand is just not there.”

Referring to locations in San Fernando such as Lady Hailes Avenue and Carlton Place, Garcia said there is a demand for housing in San Fernando.

He disagreed with Mark that letters in the public domain from the Planning Ministry’s Town and Country Planning Division (TCPD) and the Education Ministry were an outright rejection of any HDC homes being built at Todd Street.

Garcia said the former was information from the TCPD on the proposed site.

On the latter, Garcia said he has a letter from Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly indicating that the ministry does not object to the project.