Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 22nd 2015 Contents news
November 22, 2015 www.guardian.co.tt Sunday Guardian
The political arena is heating
up as Prime Minister Dr Keith
Rowley and the Opposition United
National Congress (UNC) clash
over the legality of the new reduc-
tion to the qualifying salary for
Rowley, speaking at the Housing
Development Corporation (HDC)
key handover at Chaconia Crescent,
Diego Martin, yesterday, said the
UNC internal election was the rea-
son behind the recent attack on the
government changes to the qual-
ifying combined salary for HDC
homes from $45,000 to $25,000.
“What is the problem? What is
the story? Except that someone has
a campaign coming in December
and looking for something to talk
about. I wish them well,” Rowley
said. “Let them sue me, I have court
clothes,” Rowley said.
Rowley is challenging Opposition
Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar to
take him to court if she can find
any proof of illegality in the policy
changes at the HDC.
Rowley was referring to media
reports that Persad-Bissessar had
reportedly described the govern-
ment’s move to reduce the qual-
ifying income for accessing state-
subsidised homes from $45,000 to
$25,000 as illegal. The media
reported Persad-Bissessar’s argu-
ment was that the move discrim-
inated against the thousands of cit-
izens who had already submitted
applications for state housing.
Rowley said that every HDC
house carried a subsidy and it was
the government’s responsibility to
ensure that the subsidy was utilised
by those most in need.
“If persons had applied expecting
that they will qualify and their
income is $35,000, $40,000, that
application is no longer applying
for something that exists,” he said.
However, Rowley said, if a person
had already been allocated a house
and was above that new income
level, there would be no move to
undo that. “Once you are at the
applicant stage and the policy
changes, you have to adapt to that,”
Moonilal—30,000 will be af-
fected, plans protest march
While Rowley did not say how
many of the almost 200,000 HDC
applicants no longer qualify for state
homes, another UNC leader hope-
ful, former housing minister Dr
Roodal Moonilal said the number
of affected was as many as 30,000.
“As a result of this brutal deci-
sion, some 30,000 potential owners
have been taken off the HDC, so
that the friends, family and sup-
porters of the PNM can benefit.
These are the same friends, family
and supporters of the PNM who
refused to pay rent to the HDC for
years, leading to millions of out-
standing monies (owed) to the
HDC,” Moonilal said.
Moonilal held a hasty media con-
ference yesterday to address the
changes to the HDC qualifying
income policy. “I have already been
contacted by many persons who
were assigned houses based on the
legitimate expectation of a $45,000
ceiling income. I have assembled a
team of lawyers who will meet with
these affected persons and decide
the way forward. But it does not
end there. As a mark of protest, I
plan to lead a march to the head
office of the HDC and Parliament
to raise the issue which is dictatorial
in every sense of the word,” he said.
Moonilal said, the PNM was vic-
timising middle-income earners.
Moonilal to stage
Kamla plans to sue
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says
it is financially impossible to continue
to provide state-subsidised houses for
Rowley, speaking at the key handover
ceremony at Chaconia Crescent, Diego
Martin, yesterday, said high-income
earners would have to access homes
from the private sector.
The financial constraints at the treas-
ury level will lead to more policy changes
at the Housing Development Corpora-
tion (HDC) and affect a percentage of
the 200,000 applicants already seeking
homes at the HDC.
Rowley blasted the old policy that
made government-assisted housing
available to applicants with a $45,000
combined monthly salary instead of the
lower income of $25,000. The higher
income earners, he said, should access
private housing and leave government-
assisted housing for those with less
“The treasury is not able to fund a
housing programme like we did five or
seven years ago,” Rowley said.
Another change to the policy would
see no more million-dollar housing units
being offered by the HDC.
“If the HDC sets out and ends up
building the finest housing units in T&T,
you have to ask the question: can the
State afford to give to middle and lower
income people prime housing units built
in T&T? If the answer is no, then who
are you catering for?” Rowley asked.
“Nothing is free, someone has to pay
for it,” he added. “Even if we want to
do it, to provide a house for everybody,
we can’t do it. The money is just not
there,” he said. He said some HDC units
cost as much as $4 million and if a buyer
couldn’t afford to access that high-end
property, then it should not be subsidised
by the State and the taxpayer.
“Question taxpayers: should the Gov-
ernment of T&T give million-dollar
units like that? The taxpayers of T&T
cannot afford to provide to people look-
ing for affordable housing in the multi-
million dollar range,” he said.
He said the Government was now
focused on how much money it had
and what could be done with it to satisfy
the needs of the citizenry. Rowley said
that government-subsidised housing
was not a constitutional right, it was a
government policy. The PM said he
would now seek to encourage the private
sector to get more involved in the hous-
“There is no shortage of money in
the private sector,” Rowley said.
“As long as the HDC is seen as the
only house building effort in the country,
we will be waiting on too little money
to fix the problem and leaving an under-
utilised large pool of money in the private
sector that’s available,” he said.
Rowley said encouraging the private
sector into housing development would
“shift” the onus for providing houses
from the public sector to the private
“In the public sector taxpayers are
paying, whereas in the private sector it’s
a straight case of paying by affordability,”
Rowley said. He said most people applied
for HDC houses to access the govern-
ment subsidy that went along with it.
The houses at Chaconia Crescent,
which were given out yesterday, cost
almost $1 million to build and were sold
to buyers at $650,000.
“We cannot do that as a sustainable
policy,” Rowley said.
“The nation is being asked to do the
best that we can under difficult circum-
stances,” he said. —RS
PM: Treasury can’t subsidise upper class housing
pay their own way’
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, right, and HDC chairman (designate)
Mr Newman George hand over keys to Nathan De Leon and his
mother, Glenda De Leon, at the HDC's 'Welcome To My House'
ceremony at Chaconia Crescent, Four Roads, Diego Martin, yesterday.
PHOTO: DION ROACH
Rowley said he instructed Housing Minister
Marlene McDonald to bring a cabinet note
which would allow the Government to
access the lower-tiered properties at the
HDC Victoria Keys in Diego Martin, to help
offset the high cost of government rent.
That cabinet note will allow the
Government to access lower-tiered
properties for their own use, thereby
removing some rental costs paid by the
Government. “So the Government will take
a few of them so the Government would
not pay rent to other people.
We would sell the most expensive ones in
the open market, we will put some on a rent
to own...we will create an integrated
community,” he said. Rowley did not say
whether the properties would be used as
private housing for government officials or
to house state agencies.
‘LOWER-TIERED PROPERTIES AT VICTORIA KEYS FOR GOVERNMENT USE’
See Page A12
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