Ministry, LSA distribute 103 houses to the vulnerable

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Land Settlement Agency chairman Wayne Innis, centre, presents a home ownership package to Christian Maharaj, one of the 103 recipients of the Housing and Village Improvement programme, during the Land Settlement Agency key distribution ceremony held at the Auditorium Government Campus on June 14. – Photo by Roger Jacob

THE Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and the Land Settlement Agency (LSA) distributed 103 houses on June 14 as part of the Housing and Village Improvement Programme (HVIP).

Minister of Housing and Urban Development Camille Robinson-Regis explained the criteria for selecting people for the HVIP.

“People who live in very sub-standard conditions are the ones who benefit from this programme. It is usually in areas where these people are squatting – but they have to have a deed of comfort or permission from the person whose land they are on. If it’s state land, we usually give it to them.”

The key distribution ceremony took place at the Government Campus Plaza on June 14.

LSA chairman Wayne Innis said this ceremony was the largest distribution of houses in the programme’s existence and the first public ceremony of the year.

“The HVIP’s unique ability to deliver affirmative change in the lives of the most vulnerable families is truly special, and it’s always an honour to be a part of such change.”

Innis said the 103 keys distributed were double the number in last December’s distribution ceremony.

“This is a testament of the growth and impact of this vibrant programme.

“The HVIP continues to make a difference, providing much needed assistance to those who provide it most – the less fortunate in society. “

MP for Lopinot/Bon Air Marvin Gonzales said despite the government’s cash-flow challenges, “We will do whatever it takes to ensure the most vulnerable in society is protected.

“Despite the fact we have falling oil and gas revenue, the government decided to protect its social safety programme of $5 billion per year.”

Minister in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development Adrian Leonce explained how the HVIP started.

“It was PM Rowley walking through Samuel Cooper Road, Moruga. and saw how some people were living.

“He said, ‘We need a programme to fix this.'”

Leonce declared, “This programme is the best programme in the world.

“I don’t know any place in the world where people would come, see you live in a vulnerable space and say, ‘We will build over your house for free.'”

He said the ministry has a system in place for every member and class of society.

“There are some people who need assistance to just fix their roof: we capture those. There are some people that can afford a mortgage: we capture those.

“Then there’s some people where the grant isn’t going to help and there’s no way to rebuild unless we step in, and that’s what today is about.”

He said this distribution was not the first of the year, as some cases were more urgent than others and could not wait for a public distribution ceremony.

Giving the feature address, Robinson-Regis said the government had allocated $100 million for the programme this year.

“We are aiming to construct 600 of these houses. We have distributed 103 today and in the coming weeks we’ll be distributing more.”

She said the HVIP is not only about building houses: “We fix the infrastructure of the areas we touch, from drainage to roads, and we are putting in place homework centres, community centres in areas where there are none.”

Though the houses are free, Robinson-Regis said recipients need to put in at least $10,000 worth of “sweat equity” – helping to build the house themselves, or members of their families helping, unless they were incapacitated.

Christian Maharaj from the Couva Regional Corporation was one of those receiving a house. He expressed his thanks in one word: “Grateful.”

Maharaj said his living situation was hard before getting this newly built house.

A similar sentiment was shared by a pensioner from Champ Fleurs who did not want to be named. She said she had been living in a wooden structure on an incline for close to ten years.

“I am happy, I can sleep a little more comfortable for now.

“The work took a little while to start, but when they started, they finished really fast – took three weeks to complete.”

Robinson-Regis was happy to provide the 103 recipients with a home and urged them to develop their families, encourage their young people to study hard and to use their homes as a stepping stone to increase their wealth.