Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : August 18th 2014 Contents JOSHUA SURTEES
Recent reports that the HDC housing
waiting list has reached 200,000
have thrown up questions about
strategies for land usage, housing design
and urban planning in T&T.
In our series on housing, Joshua Surtees
speaks to architects, planners and surveyors
to find out if there is enough land available,
whether everybody on the list can get a place
to live and what kind of accommodation
makes best use of space while providing com-
fortable, functional living that complements
people s lifestyles.
Part three features land surveyor Ivan
Laughlin who has designed and overseen
urban planning projects for several decades.
Laughlin believes in sustainable develop-
ment and the expansion of villages to inspire
communal togetherness and encourage decen-
tralisation away from the urban centres.
Joshua Surtees: What are the current
issues surrounding housing?
Ivan Laughlin: The complications we
have created, of densely populated areas
spread along corridors haven t allowed oppor-
tunities for decentralising and easing pressure
on the major urban centres.
The way you provide housing, whether it s
single or multi family or dual usage residential
and commercial, these are issues we ve been
facing for 25 years without finding a proper
way of integrating them. This is why people
squat, because they have to have some form
There s a new Planning and Facilitation
Bill, which takes account of issues like organ-
ising land for housing purposes and acquiring
land. HDC provides housing but there are
other ways. Credit unions are very important
because they operate a system whereby people
in lower income brackets can save money on
a regular basis to obtain loans, as a collective,
at more reasonable interest rates. They gen-
erate income, have liquid assets and can invest.
In Bon Accord, I designed a development
on 300 acres of land for the Mount Pleasant
Credit Union and a third of the 300 housing
units went to their membership at subsidised
rates. They could also borrow money and
take out mortgages through the credit union.
JS: Thinking about land use. There s plenty
of land that can be built on, but is it privately
owned agricultural land?
IL: In terms of the overall land holding of
Trinidad, about 50 per cent is owned by the
state. For example, lands which were originally
Caroni Ltd, lands which belonged to the oil
companies, different categories of land, but
all state land. And 50 per cent is private. State
land includes forest reserves and so forth.
But we do have adequate land. Especially if
you take Caroni 1975 Ltd into account we
have significant amounts of land. There was
75,000 acres initially. The land has been grad-
ually channelled off in other directions and
some is being developed by the HDC.
JS: The two main types of residential hous-
ing are HDC medium density or private houses
with a garden, right?
IL: There are certain places where the
HDC itself provides single family accommo-
dation. But if you re covering large numbers
of people at an affordable rate, cluster housing
becomes important. It depends on where the
land is available. It might be in the valley---
hillside development---or it might be on the
plains which is pretty level land. There s a
big argument now for the use of hills for
JS: Should hills be used more?
IL: Well I think there has to be a careful
assessment of the hillsides that are appropriate
for that type of development. I am one of
those who is in agreement with it but it must
be done in a way that improves the oppor-
tunities of using hillside land. I mean the
whole of Laventille is hillside.
JS: And from afar it looks fantastic. Does
it work, in Laventille?
IL: It works, but it needs upgrading. It
needs to reduce density in some areas. But
when you re doing that you have to have a
comprehensive approach to development to
ensure it does not take place haphazardly.
There s squatting in Laventille in areas there
shouldn t be, because it becomes too clustered.
And in other areas we have to ensure people
do not use steep hillsides for development.
JS: What s the solution to decentralisation?
Should we build new smaller towns and urban
IL: We could expand existing villages. For
example, Wallerfield, the old naval base
between Arima and Sangre Grande, is an
important area. It was once a military base
and there s a lot of land. It could be a pool
of growth for residential development. To
the north and south are villages that could
expand. But the point is you don t want to
expand and then people have to travel into
PoS you want people to be able to work in
JS: What kind of industry could they pro-
IL: There are a number of factors. IT activ-
ity. A campus for UTT would generate
employment. The process of building provides
jobs. You want a situation in which people
see a future and opportunities they consider
Residential development needs, within
close proximity, agricultural development.
Organic farming, for domestic use and import,
is a major activity we should pursue. We need
experimental approaches, initiatives, so people
can see it taking shape.
And take these visions and concepts to
schools so young minds have their imagina-
tions stimulated, to see the way it can work
and people begin to see different opportunities
for work and you create new avenues for peo-
ple to become viable entities in their own
• Twitter: @GuardianTT • Web: guardian.co.tt
Never judge a phone by its cover. This
chunky, black box was in fact the world s
. The IBM Simon went
on sale to the public on August 16, 1994
and combined mobile phone technology
with a wide range of computing features.
To mark the 20th anniversary, Lon-
don s Science Museum is putting it on
display in its new Information Age
"The Simon wasn t called a smart-
phone back then," said curator Charlotte
"But it had a lot of the features we see
today. It had a calendar, it could take
notes and send emails and messages and
combined all of this with a cell phone."
Weighing in at 1.1lb, the Simon was
not exactly pocket-sized. However,
Connelly insisted the design was ahead
of its time.
"It looks like a grey block but it s not as
big as you d imagine," she said. "It had a
stylus and a green LCD screen, which is
similar in size to the iPhone 4. In fact, it s
not a bad looking thing."
IBM s pioneering product was also the
first mobile phone to feature software
apps and could be linked up to a fax ma-
World's first 'smartphone' celebrates 20 years
Continued on Page A34
This aerial shot shows
the density of housing in
Laventille. Ivan Laughlin
believes density needs
to be reduced some
areas but there must be
development to ensure
it does not take place
PHOTO: MARLON ROUSE
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