Property Matters – Affordability and Legality

The previous three articles, I, II and III exposed counterfactuals, those being baseless claims, hypotheses or beliefs. In those cases, I dealt with large-scale toxic untruths, shamelessly promoted by those who know better. All that is in it.

Showing Trinidad and Tobago A New Way HomeThis week I continue my Season of Reflection, turning to T&T’s Housing Policy and Program. The Housing Policy (2002) was implemented via the National Housing Authority (NHA), which was succeeded in 2005 by the Housing Development Corporation – established by the HDC Act. This week’s counterfactual is that our housing policy and the HDC are dedicated to producing affordable housing.

This article will establish just how small is the HDC output of affordable homes and go on to locate these operations within the legal obligations governing that Public Institution.

The irrefutable facts, from the official record, are –

  • Target – The Housing Policy set a target of 100,000 new affordable homes to be provided in a decade;
  • Affordability – The HDC’s functions and duties are specified at S.13 (1) of the HDC Act 2005

    “…13. (1) Subject to this Act, it shall be the function and duty of the Corporation to—
    (a) do all things necessary and convenient for or in connection with the provision of affordable shelter and associated community facilities for low- and middle-income persons…”

    The words create mandates – ‘shall be the function and duty’; ‘all things necessary’; ‘provision of affordable shelter’. Affordable housing is defined as costing less than 30% of a household’s income, the other requirement being that the income of those households is less than the average income;

  • Waiting List – There are over 175,000 applicants on that list, 90% of whom cannot qualify for a mortgage;
  • Applicants – According to official records the average monthly national household income as $9,000 (2014 figures). The HDC accepts applications from households up to a maximum monthly income of $25,000. I am unable to reconcile that ceiling with a mandate to produce affordable homes;
  • Costs – According to the NHA and HDC Financial Statements from 2003 to 2018, $11.66 Billion in Public Money was used to fund these operations;
  • Output – According to the HDC’s homepage, over 50,000 homes have been delivered. According to the HDC’s Managing Director, Brent Lyons, on 4th April 2019, a total of 13,617 new homes were completed by NHA and HDC between 2003 and 2018. I am unable to reconcile those figures;
    Allocations – According to the HDC’s reply of 23rd May 2019, 15,299 homes were allocated as set out in the sidebar.

In the last six weeks or so, there has been an amazing shift in the HDC’s stream of publicity, in that the word ‘affordable’ appears to have been banished from view. There have been sharp statements from myself and Ms Rossana Glasgow, criticising the low provision of new homes for low-income families and the HDC in response to her. The HDC’s defensive statement of 16 July 2019 was bemusing as the proportion of rentals and the very word ‘affordable’ were both conspicuously absent. Well I tell you. Perhaps this campaign on the meaning of that important word was finally having an effect, which could be satisfying or amusing. In fact it is very sobering and leads directly to the important issue of legality.

nha-hdc-logoWhat is now before us is that this huge State-owned Statutory Agency was established with a mandate to provide affordable housing. The NHA and HDC have been heavily funded over the period of the present housing policy, to the amount of $11.66 Billion in Public Money. A total of 13,617 new homes were completed in that period, which is an average cost of $856,000, excluding land. Virtually 80% of the new homes were built for sale, which excludes the poorer applicants.

We now have to consider that the very originating law appears to have been routinely breached. What is more, the Integrity in Public Life Act at its Code of Conduct in Part IV, S24 (3) stipulates –

“…(3) No person to whom this Part applies shall be a party to or shall undertake any project or activity involving the use of public funds in disregard of the Financial Orders or other Regulations applicable to such funds…”

This issue of the failure or refusal to satisfy the legal mandate to provide affordable homes is rooted in a questionable series of arrangements to spend massive sums of Public Money in breach of the law. These arrangements are not fit for purpose, that is my view.

ADDENDUM

The allocation of homes by NHA and HDC in the period 2003 to 2018 was in these tenures–

  1. Rental – permanently rented homes;
  2. Rent to Own – Homes rented to persons who intend to purchase but are unable to do so due to short-term financial encumbrances. Two-thirds of the rents paid are applied to a deposit when the purchase is realised;
  3. Licence to Own – Homes rented to persons who are qualified to purchase but are presumably unable to do so due to challenges on the HDC side of the transaction. It is likely that those challenges are the lack of good title as required by lenders. 90% of the rent paid is applied to the purchase price;
  4. Outright Purchase – Homes which are sold to persons on the waiting list.

The numbers of homes distributed in those tenures were:

TENURE Rental Rent to Own Licence to Own Outright Purchase TOTALS
NUMBERS 3,171 201 10,860 1,066 15,299
PERCENTAGE 20.7% 1.3% 71.0% 7.0% 100%
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3 thoughts on “Property Matters – Affordability and Legality

  1. wonderful. Sadly it will not be read by those who should understand how they are being cheated but vote on tribal loyalty alone.

  2. The PNM 2015 Manifesto states on page 49, “The Rent-to-Own Programme – introduced to assist low income households, to start with a rental property, which would be converted to home ownership as their circumstances improve.”
    You calculated it to be 201 houses or 1.3% of those distributed. It will be interesting to compare those figures with persons in the other three categories who voted for the PNM. Ironically I suspect that their safe seats, like Belmont where I live, will be safely taken by whoever is placed there. Stuart Young is currently there having done nothing for those who voted for him. This is rum and roti politics: affordable and legal.

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