Settlements secretary: Grants programme is being abused

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Chief Secretary Farley Augustine (centre) with Habitat for Humanity’s national director, Jennifer Massiah; and Secretary of Settlements, Public Utilities and Rural Development, Ian Pollard at a memorandum of understanding signing ceremony between the Tobago House of Assembly and Habitat For Humanity at Shaw Park Cultural Complex on Thursday. – David Reid

THA Secretary of Settlements, Public Utilities and Rural Development Ian Pollard says there has been an abuse of the grants programme within his division.

He made the statement on Thursday while delivering the vote of thanks at a function to mark the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the THA and Habitat for Humanity at Shaw Park Cultural Complex.

The division currently offers a home completion grant, home improvement grant and home improvement subsidy to help people improve the standard of their existing homes. According to a release on the division’s website from 2019, the maximum amount someone can receive for the home improvement grant is $15,000, while the home improvement subsidy is $20,000, the home completion grant is $20,000 and the beneficiary owned land is up to $50,000.

Pollard said, “The grants programme has to be restructured to cater to those most in need because we have had an abuse of the grants programme and those that are most vulnerable will be the beneficiaries to our grants programme.”

Pollard, who has been liaising with Habitat for Humanity’s national director Jennifer Massiah for some time, said he learnt that the non-profit organisation has been negotiating monthly mortgage payments with low-income earners for as little as $800.

He added if such an initiative could be implemented in Tobago, it would assist many needy people who are unable to access loans from banks and other lending institutions to refurbish their homes.

But Pollard said the monthly instalment may have to be adjusted.

“A figure will have to be determined and we could use a benchmark going forward. But that will really help those who are less fortunate.”

He said there are many struggling, single mothers in need of help.

“Up to this morning (Thursday), a lady texted me. She said she is fed up of staying by people and they are showing her bad face and when is she getting a house. This is the cry out there.”

Pollard said the division is ready to do the hard work to ease the frustrations of those in need.