Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 1st 2014 Contents A30
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, September 1, 2014
• FROM PAGE A29
Reroute Movement, Invaders Bay,
the library in Chaguanas, the
smelter, because of the limited land
space and the ambitions of the
population, large-scale develop-
ment seems to be the vogue.
Which means the entire process
of development must be the sub-
ject of wide-scale consultation so
that people do not feel that they
We ve discussed the East-West
Corridor as having developed as
a necessity---people need to get
into town even though it can take
hours---and I suppose that will
continue? And should it?
Well, what has actually taken
place in the last 15 years is there s
been a shift of the population, from
the East-West Corridor towards
Chaguanas. For the last 20 years,
our statistics have shown Chagua-
nas is the fastest-growing town in
the country. In fact, right now,
they are lining themselves up for
city status. The Chaguanas pop-
ulation, the last time I checked,
was about 120,000. It could be
more now. Largely comprised in
private small-scale developments.
It s a huge sprawl, though...
Yes, it s a sprawl and there are
There s also a large population
of people who traditionally inhab-
ited the East-West Corridor, went
to school there, many of them still
work in Port-of-Spain and its
environs---but they re living in
Chaguanas. I don t have a problem
with Chaguanas becoming a city,
I think it s right.
Port-of-Spain is a whole tragic
story...In 1980-81 when they did
a census the population was
100,000. The current population
is 38,000. I m one of those people
and I want to say that this is the
only capital city in the world where
we haven t suffered a war, famine,
flood, earthquake yet we have
allowed our capital to collapse and
decline in the precipitous kind of
way that it has.
What should we be doing in
terms of residential housing to
regenerate downtown? And will
it be done, what is required of the
people in charge for it to happen?
We re really dealing with a deep-
seated series of issues, including
the NIMBY phenomenon and a
collapse over the last 30-40 years
which has been legislated and
allowed. It started with the con-
struction of these large out-of-
town and edge-of-town malls with
lots of car parking and covered
shopping, airconditioned... And
that precipitated the decline of
Port-of-Spain as a shopping city
and a lot of other things have fol-
There really is a very limited
number of people living here and
an even smaller number of people
who are willing to live here. It s no
longer an attractive place for the
vast majority of people.
Can we turn that around?
It s possible but it would be a
long-term thing and would require
mixed development, which we
haven t had much of. The closest
thing to mixed development---and
its outcome is unclear---is One
Woodbrook Place with shopping,
offices and residences, which is a
popular thing in the advanced
I don t know if it s a success but
it s one we could look at, eh?
But let me stick my neck out
and say the vast majority of build-
ings built by Patrick Manning s
administration, the government
campus plaza, remain unoccupied.
There s 1.3 million square feet of
unoccupied space downtown. And,
at the same time, the government
has taken contracts to complete
those offices by May next year.
They ve approved $1.5 billion to
complete those projects.
In addition, this administration
has moved ahead with something
people have talked about for
decades: decentralisation. The relo-
cation of significant ministries and
state agencies to Central Trinidad.
Was his attempt to build sky-
scrapers the right thing to do to
regenerate or should it have
involved affordable housing?
I think it should have involved
What we may well have to coin
in the next five to ten years, in
terms of making the city attractive
and making proper use of those
buildings, is to contemplate a dif-
ferent future---they may have to
be repurposed so that parts of the
buildings may be residential.
Because one is now questioning
how many square feet can be
occupied, given the number of
state agencies that are now headed
to Central Trinidad.
Should the HDC take a plot
somewhere here or right down
near Independence Square and
build 500 to 1,000 units in a big
nice building or set of buildings?
Or should they redevelop and
relocate the streets in the east of
The relocation of those streets
and the market were seriously con-
templated projects between 2005
and 2007. Land was purchased for
millions of dollars under the last
administration and the projects
never came to fruition. Everything
east of Henry Street was proposed
to be redeveloped.
Your first question refers to a
wider purpose for the HDC. What
that would require is a joined-up
policy and a housing policy review.
If they have this kind of money
(abundant) and they re building
6,000 houses a year and the pur-
pose is to make quality housing
for the needy, your question is
indeed a pregnant one: why not
take a chance on the future and
build 200 units that you d give out
on a rent-to-buy sort of scheme
to professionals in a part of Port-
of-Spain that remains undevel-
oped, in the hope of sparking a
different economic outcome for
the capital city?
It would require strategic
thinking and HDC and Udecott
to put heads together, which of
course is a little ironic given that
Jearlean John sits in both places.
It requires a disciplined effort.
You asked at the beginning how
they had gone in achieving the
100,000 targets. The HDC has built
about 18,000 units in total between
2002 and the present. Now, of that
18,000 units they have distributed a
little over 6,000 houses.
So, in fact, in our country at this
time there s between 11,000-12,000
empty homes which taxpayers dollars
have paid for. And the fact they remain
empty at the same time as there is a
large number of people who are needy,
it reflects a severe misallocation of
resources in an area of severe social
So if the housing policy is to be prop-
erly evaluated, it s not only to be eval-
uated in terms of the cost per house
and the important concepts about social
design Jenifer Smith spoke about in
her interview. But it needs to be reflect-
ed in the raw reality that if we build
20,000 homes with taxpayers money,
20,000 needy citizens would be living
in those homes.
Raymond believes that there should be
more mixed developments, like One
Woodbrook Place in Woodbrook, where
there is shopping, offices and
Raymond: PoS no longer attractive place to live
Port-of-Spain is a whole
tragic story...In 1980-81
when they did a census
the population was
100,000. The current
population is 38,000. I'm
one of those people and I
want to say that this is
the only capital city in
the world where we
haven't suffered a war,
famine, flood, earthquake
yet we have allowed our
capital to collapse and
decline in the precipitous
kind of way that it has.
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