Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : April 27th 2014 Contents 143) and San Juan/Laventille (30, 985).
T&T Mortgage Finance CEO, Ingrid Lashley,
said in the April 6 Sunday BG article, "The
Middle Class Syndrome," that homeowners
choose to gravitate towards the East/West
According to the census, Princes Town (87
per cent), Penal/Debe (85 per cent) and Siparia
(87 per cent) are also above the national home-
ownership average in terms of percentage of
Meanwhile, nearly 20 per cent of total
households, or 77,806 have some type of rental
arrangement. Rental arrangements were highest
in San Juan/Laventille, Tunapuna/Piarco and
Diego Martin, also serving to underline the
trend of the desirability of locations along the
East/West corridor according to Lashley.
City centres polled relatively small numbers
with both Port-of-Spain registering 6,928
homeowners or a percentage of 56 per cent,
well below the national average per cent of
homeownership. San Fernando, too, is below
the national average at 10,589 or 70.3 per cent.
Meanwhile, Chaguanas is above the national
average at 79 per cent or 19, 237.
According to the census figures, there are
3,002 squatter households representing just
under one per cent of the total number. Most
off these are in San Juan/Laventille, Tunapuna
Piarco and Couva/Tabaquite/Talparo.
Based on these figures, it can be concluded
that squatting, while an issue, does not exist
at the level present in other Latin American
and Caribbean territories.
Minister of Housing responds:
The Sunday BG posed questions related to
the suggestions made in the report to Minister
of Housing and Urban Development, Roodal
Moonilal, who said: "As a government, we
respect the substantial research output and
recommendations from the IDB, but we reserve
the right to fashion public policy in the national
interest given our peculiar social and economic
Moonilal said these circumstances include
T&T history as a plantation society and of
colonialism. As a result, it becomes important
to the average citizen to own their home, as
a form of "empowerment and economic par-
ticipation" as well as "social capital." He said
this is a position the Government intended to
continue to support by encouraging home
He also said as a culture, Trinbagonians are
more inclined to undertake a rental arrange-
ment out of need and not desire. Moonilal
said most HDC applicants viewed paying a
rent as "dead money", when compared with
an "active mortgage situation."
He said that he was noticing a very gradual
shift towards apartment and townhouse living
developing among middle-class professionals.
For the most part, however, he said Trinbag-
onians continue to prefer single-home arrange-
ments to "vertical living" and he expected
that things will remain this way for some time
Moonilal admitted there was merit to the
idea of a formalised rental scheme but pointed
out that the Government was already the
country s largest landlord with several rental
units and "thousand and thousands" of tenants
across the country.
This system, he said, had its drawbacks in
that it put additional burden on taxpayers who
are paying for the maintenance of rental units.
Owning a house, on the other hand, placed
the cost of maintenance on the homeowner,
as well as fostered a sense of responsibility.
The total government rental stock---according
to the 2011 population census data on dwelling
Moonilal said an average of three homes are
distributed on a daily basis and the Government
planned to have three house distributions in
north, central and south Trinidad some time
The housing minister acknowledged this
was not enough, but said the Government has
been taking other steps to alleviate pressures
in the housing sector.
"We encourage private-sector development
through incentives. We have incentivised that
sector by providing tax allowances for pri-
vate-housing development. We have also
embarked upon the Land for the Landless
programme to ensure we have the distribution
of lots of land for citizens who may be inter-
ested in land as an option as opposed to a
house. Between that programme and incen-
tivising the private sector to accelerate home
construction, you hope that you can make a
dent in the backlog of applicants for hous-
Regarding the census statistics, the housing
minister was asked about the political signif-
icance of several of the numbers, for example,
the high number of homeowners in what
would be considered UNC strongholds.
He said it was "not surprising" given that
rural areas, as represented by districts like
Siparia, Princes Town and Penal/Debe had
the land space that made more single home
arrangements possible. In contrast, there has
generally been less availability of land in the
north west of the country.
The IDB position
The Sunday BG asked the IDB whether the
suggestions in their report would become a
policy recommendation for the region.
Andres Guillermo Blanco, senior specialist,
housing and urban development at the Wash-
ington headquarters, answered in the affir-
mative, but with conditions.
"We are recommending that governments
complement existing policies based on home-
ownership with policies oriented to support
the rental market. The key is to offer different
alternatives so different segments of the
demand can better match preferences with
the available housing solutions.
"We have initiated a dialogue in this regard
with several governments in the region and
we are helping some of them to design and
develop policies to promote the rental market
within an overall framework of housing and
urban policies based on the concept of housing
as a service."
He said this should be taken in consideration
with what the government of the particular
"We believe that housing ministers are in
the best position to know what is better for
their country and therefore we will continue
supporting the policies proposed by the gov-
The future: here, but not now
Would an increase in rental units have pos-
itive spin-off effects as suggested in the
It seems likely, given both Latin America
and especially the Caribbean s limited land
space, alternatives to the single family home
and horizontal spread have to be seriously
considered by policymakers in the near future.
As land becomes less and less available,
spread must go upwards and apartment living
has to be seen as an option.
Cultural biases in T&T may prevent this
from happening in the short- to medium-
term. However, there is a preference for single
family homes and locations on the East/West
Even if increased rental units become avail-
able through government and the private sec-
tor, there remains the question of whether
the current level of infrastructure could
accommodate more residents in already over-
subscribed areas like the East/West corridor.
As Dr Moonilal also explained, the Gov-
ernment s policy position is based on the
cultural norms of T&T as well as its wish
that more people participate and invest in
the economy by purchasing a home.
As a result, therefore, homeownership
remains the desired goal for both Trinbag-
onians and the Government. But the sug-
gestions of the IDB report have to be weighed
in the balance, particularly in the long run.
This, as more and more citizens demand
a place of their own, as single home options
become more scarce and more expensive and
as land becomes less available.
APRIL 27 • 2014 www.guardian.co.tt SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN
NEWS | SBG5
From Page 4
...remains the goal
Source: Central Statistical Office
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