Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 6th 2014 Contents Private developers
The HDC head is aware of the issues. The
long wait in particular. John says she goes to
work for 5:00 am and meets people waiting
to plead their case for a home. She believes
that the situation is reflective of a level of
despair people feel regarding housing.
"Even middle income people are living in
poor conditions because rent is so high. A
middle income rent is between $3,000 and
$6,000 and that is a sizeable chunk of people s
salaries...As people become more desperate
in terms of the private housing market, they
turn to the HDC."
When asked if the HDC was willing to fill
the gap that private developers had left in the
middle, John indicated that she believed every-
one had a right to a home.
The state agency has faced criticism in the
past for moving away from its mandate of
providing homes for lower income families
and devoting resources to developments like
Fedelis Heights in St Augustine, which features
subsidised units of between $750,000 to $900,
000. On the open market, one of these homes
would cross $1 million. John was hesistant to
say this represented a shift in the HDC s pol-
"You can t say you are shifting and then
the opportunity cost is lower income people,
who remain vulnerable. As tax paying citizens,
all of us, we are all entitled. Because that is
really the requirement. You are a citizen of
T&T. You are over 21. You don t own any pre-
vious land or house. My thing is you cannot
close out a group who also cannot afford hous-
ing on the open market."
Lashley also sees these developments as
alternatives to the traditional housing market.
The TTMF CEO believes that as time passes
Fedelis Heights will become the model for
more HDC housing like it, catering to those
of the middle class and those of middle income.
Referring to the 148,000 backlog of appli-
cations in the HDC s database, John acknowl-
edges that as a country we need to find more
creative solutions to the housing problem. She
suggests the adoption of a system used in Sin-
gapore, where money is deducted from citizens
salaries from the time they start working and
put toward a house, which they will be able
to access at a future date.
Lashley also had some suggestions for the
young couples in their search for affordable
properties. These include sourcing abandoned
houses and "fixer uppers."
She also says people should begin making
a psychological shift away from Port-of-Spain
as middle people all too often want to focus
on the East/West corridor, where transporta-
tion is easier, accessiblity to the office is easier.
She notes that property becomes cheaper the
further away it is from city centres and sees
potential homeowners in the middle segment
gravitating towards central Trinidad.
"Cunupia, Chaguanas, even parts of San
Fernando, Marabella, I think those along the
highway are the new hotspots, as you would
She thinks improvements in transport and
infrastructure should make this more feasi-
ble.Lashley also described the "granny suites"
concept, one which she believes will solve the
problem of young professionals and couples
needing to find a house outright. Here, parents
and adult children share the home.
"We have come to a point where we want
to be so independent that we disregard our
base. We have examples of people who are
traditional mortagagers. Their parents have
been traditional mortgagers with us and they
have now come to the place where the younger
people take over the mortgage, take over the
property and adjust the living place, so that
the parents have their living space and they
have their family and they have their own pri-
"It provides for the older people having
somebody to look for them as they become
older. It provides support for the younger peo-
ple so they have built in baby-sitting services
and we get back to the place where our children
have the nurturing of the wider family com-
munity. The living circumstances are such
that it is an arrangement that can work to the
benefit of all."
Landlords and tenants could also come to
an agreement with each other, says Lashely.
A landlord who no longer wants the respon-
sibility of a property could give the tenant the
first option for purchase. A portion of the rent
would go towards buying the house and after
a pre-determined period when the initial pur-
chase price is reduced, the tenant could then
apply for a mortgage to finance the remainder
owed to the landlord.
The TTMF head also sees rent-to-own
arrangements becoming more popular. This
is where rent for a property is, over time, con-
verted to a mortgage.
Asked if they ever explored any of the alter-
natives put forward, John, Mary, Mitchell and
Sarah admitted they had not. In most of the
cases they had not even realised these were
options. Lack of knowledge about the ins and
outs of the market, how to find accessible
properties and non-traditional ways to finance
them is hurting the middle sector.
Mitchell, for example, did not know that
he would still have to get a mortgage for a
public sector house.
Leslie Nelson, of the Trindad Building and
Loan Society, says this is typical since in his
experience, as many of 50 per cent of the peo-
ple who come in to the institution do not
know what are the requirements for obtaining
"We have individuals who would walk into
us and say that they want a house and they
see a house that they like and they want to
purchase the house, full stop. Most of the
time, they have no idea that is what is required,
for example, attendent fees and documents"
But the problems of the middle are not
insurmountable. Lashley advises people to
start planning for a house purchase early.
"I always recommend to people graduating
from school that they establish a strategic life
plan. With that in mind, I say assume I leave
school in 2014 and want to buy a house by
2020. So I start looking around in 2014, what
kind of house am I interested in. I have to
think now, if I have to pay down on a mil-
lion-dollar home in 2020, my savings target
over the next five years is $100,000, based on
today s circumstances."
And there are advantages to getting that
headstart. Nelson says, "conservatively, if you
were to purchase a house with a timeframe
of 35 years (to repay), the installment at 25
years could almost be 50 per cent less than
it would be at age 45."
Several institutions feature packages specif-
ically geared towards helping potential first
time owners save for their downpayment. (See
table) While credit criteria remains standard
across the board, there is a level of flexibility
in repayment terms at the different lending
What remains is---for people like John, Mary,
Mitchell, Sarah and all of those who find them-
selves in the middle---to find the solutions that
work best for them.
Finding creative arrangements
From Page 5
PHOTO: RISHI RAGOONATH
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