Property Matters – HDC Financing

“…There are a lot of things that did not go right in the NHA and one of those things had to do with accountability…The HDC is not going to function like that. We are required by law to have the accounts ready in a certain period of time. The CEO will be held accountable and the Cabinet will hold the minister accountable and the Parliament will hold the Cabinet accountable. That is what the HDC means…”

—Then Housing Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, speaking at the launch of the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) in October 2005.

Keith Rowley
Former Minister of Housing, Keith Rowley, M.P.

This week I am shifting focus from the ‘Affordability Hoax‘ to the financial aspect of our country’s large-scale public housing program as conducted by the HDC. I am therefore ignoring other agencies such as the Land Settlement Agency and other types of State funding or tax allowances such as mortgage relief etc.

Dr Rowley was referring to these obligations in the HDC Act (No 24 of 2005)

  • S.18 – to keep the HDC’s books and accounts in accordance with proper accounting standards;
  • S.19 – HDC’s accounts to be audited annually to proper accounting standards, with that audit report submitted to the Minister and the Board;
  • S.20 – HDC’s Board to submit its Annual Report to the Minister within three months of the end of the financial year and the Minister to publish that Report to Parliament within three months of its receipt.

But the HDC has never published any audited accounts in the eleven years of its existence, spanning three political administrations, thus far. That failure and/or refusal to publish audits is in breach of those sections of the HDC Act. Continue reading “Property Matters – HDC Financing”

Property Matters – Achieving Affordability

hdclogoThe previous column labelled the repeated official statements as to the increased supply of affordable homes as ‘alternative facts’. This week, I will set out just what needs to happen for the HDC to provide more affordable housing.

Even when the definition is well established, it is notoriously difficult to deliver affordable housing to those who really need it. The challenges is far greater if there is no attempt by the responsible officials to define the goal. A degree of clarity is therefore essential if affordable housing is to be truly achieved. Continue reading “Property Matters – Achieving Affordability”

Property Matters – The Affordability Hoax

The Affordability Hoax. Drawing by David Cave.

AFFORDABILITY IS THE MAIN PILLAR OF THE HOUSING POLICY SINCE 2002
—Key quote from HDC’s Home Ownership webpage

“…Housing Minister Randall Mitchell says Government has made housing more affordable to low and middle-income families unlike the People’s Partnership government which catered for high-income earners…” December 2016

Randall Mitchell, MP, Minister of Housing and Urban Development

Once again, the HDC and the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Randall Mitchell, have been in the news with strong claims based on the HDC’s program and new mortgage offerings by TTMF. The headline in this newspaper on 10 February 2017 was “More people to access affordable housing“. In my view those are baseless and misleading official claims which readily qualify as ‘alternative facts’. Bigly so.

These statements are not unique to Minister Mitchell, who is relatively new to this portfolio, but enough is enough. Given the importance of public housing in the nation’s welfare arrangements and the sheer lack of reliable information on the issues, it is now time to dismantle the myth of an increasing supply of affordable housing. Continue reading “Property Matters – The Affordability Hoax”

Property Matters – State Housing Facts

hdc-logoThis is a continuation of my examination of the National Housing Policy (2002), its implementation and the associated implications.

Over the last year I engaged with HDC’s management who cooperated with me, much like the previous team. I asked about new homes produced by the National Housing Authority (NHA) and the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) in the period January 1st 2003 to December 31st 2015 to establish a) the output of completed homes; b) numbers of new homes distributed; c) the tenures of those homes and finally, d) compliance with the allocation criteria established by the 2002 policy.

Showing Trinidad and Tobago A New Way HomeThe 2002 policy is “Showing Trinidad and Tobago a New Way HOME” and it seems to have met the sorry fate of the 1992 national land policy, in that those important policies have both vanished from official websites. The headline of that Policy was the target of 100,000 new homes in ten years. That target was over-ambitious, given the bottlenecks in our system of planning and construction, even if, at that time, ‘money was no problem’. Continue reading “Property Matters – State Housing Facts”

Property Matters – Invaders’ Bay part two

invaders-bay-artist-rendering
UDeCOTT artist’s impression of Invaders’ Bay development

There is a rising tide of confusion at Invaders’ Bay, so it is time to bring some understanding to this situation. The previous column delved into the Appeal Court rulings and the State’s application to appeal to the Privy Council. There is a lot more to be derived from those important rulings, but this week I am restating the case as to why this is a large-scale development of major importance.

Dr. Bhoendradatt Tewarie
Dr. Bhoendradatt Tewarie

In March 2012, Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie, the then Minister of Planning & Sustainable Development, confirmed that the 70-acres of undeveloped land at Invaders’ Bay was worth $1.28Bn. This would be the largest single development in our capital city in living memory, the only questions being ‘On whose terms?‘ and ‘For whose benefit?

In 2012, the PP Cabinet decided to lease two parcels of land at Invaders’ Bay –

  1. Dachin: 10.2 acres for a Commercial/Residential complex, a boutique hotel, a cultural focus area and three (3) main event entertainment areas comprising a Museum, Bowling Alley and Movie Theatres. View video presentation here.
  2. Invader’s Bay Marina Group: Commercial Development on 13 acres for Hotel, Commercial Office Complex, Cruise Ship Complex; Gas Station; Residential Development and Light Industrial Development; a Marina.

Continue reading “Property Matters – Invaders’ Bay part two”

Property Matters – Invaders’ Bay

invadersbay-bw

On 28 October 2016, the Appeal Court delivered its majority ruling upholding the decision of Justice Frank Seepersad on 14 July 2014 to order publication, under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), of the legal opinions on which the Ministry had been relying. The JCC had won its case at both the High Court and the Appeal Court, so I called for immediate publication of the requested information. The JCC made no such call, neither did any of my erstwhile colleagues.

At an Appeal Court hearing on 21 November 2016, the State obtained leave, with the JCC’s consent, to appeal this matter at the Privy Council. Whilst in Opposition, the PNM made repeated complaints against the secretive conduct of the Invaders’ Bay development by the Peoples Partnership. Now in Government, the PNM has elevated secrecy in public affairs to a new prominence.

Since Dr James Armstrong was appointed JCC President in December 2015, that organisation has been silent on the Invaders’ Bay matter. This had previously been of high importance as a major development in our capital city, which was proceeding illegally and improperly. The JCC now seems to have reversed its earlier position of pressing for publication of those vital, suppressed documents. Continue reading “Property Matters – Invaders’ Bay”