The first article in this series set out the background to these proposed bonds and the implications of the HDC’s perennial problem with bad property titles. The second drew parallels between these proposals and the roots of the 2008 Wall Street crash, with some references to Jamaica’s National Housing Trust and its contribution system as an alternative for financing affordable housing. This week I conclude by delving into the heart of the matter, the HDC’s finances and its performance in terms of its existing bond portfolio.
One of my persistent complaints against many of our State Agencies, including the HDC, is the long-term failure or refusal to publish proper audited accounts as required by laws and regulations. I am pleased to report that my requests for NHA/HDC financial statements from 2003 to 2018 were satisfied in April this year. Once again, I thank the exemplary officers at the HDC for their assistance. Even if this time I had to engage my attorney to send HDC a pre-action protocol letter before the financial statements were released and what is more, they have not refunded my legal fees.
This article will examine the proposed HDC Housing Bonds announced by Finance Minister Imbert in Parliament on Friday, 20 September 2019. The proposal is to borrow $1.0 Billion via bonds in various tenors offering investors tax-free returns of 4.5%. The funds raised are to be used for purchasing HDC homes, which was stated to be of importance in addressing critical financial challenges in that State Agency.
Afra Raymond has a public meeting on affordable housing and questions whether the government is actually serious about proving affordable public housing based on the track record of high end and expensive construction projects over the last decade and a half.
Afra Raymond was interviewed by Fazeer Mohammed on TV6’s Morning Edition on Thursday 19th September 2019, on affordable housing in light of the upcoming T&T budget. His insights, particularly into the Housing & Construction sector, were examined. Video courtesy TV6
The barrage of stories on this issue in the last week has left one phrase ringing in my mind, VS Naipaul’s sardonic wit in his ‘independence novel’, A House for Mr Biswas – “…amazing scenes were witnessed when…”.
Two essential elements of the Season of Reflection are shown in the addenda –
On Thursday, 5 September 2019, the PM announced at the post-Cabinet media briefing that the large-scale HDC contract with China Gezhouba Group Company (CGGC) for 5,000 new apartments was now ‘cancelled’-
…That contract was reviewed extensively by the Cabinet and it has been stopped. HDC has been instructed to go back out to tender because there were some parts of that contract that did not meet Cabinet’s acceptance and approval, both structurally and legalistically. That contract has been stopped.
So, Cabinet has reviewed this contract (after its execution!) and has now cancelled it so as to re-tender and proceed in accordance with proper standards. Sad to say, a straight reading does not count for much in these matters. This is where we are, that is all.
“…that this is “a defining moment for the housing construction industry in Trinidad and Tobago”, the Minister stated that “the Government through agencies like the HDC, remains committed to providing affordable, well-designed housing accommodation and adequate infrastructure and amenities for the various low and middle income citizens…”
—Statement by Housing and Urban Development Minister, Major-General Edmund Dillon at launch of the HDC’s latest housing initiative.
On Friday 17 May 2019, the HDC signed contracts for an extensive program of new public housing with China Gezhouba Group International Engineering Co. Ltd (CGGC). The arrangement is that CGGC will design, finance and construct 5,000 new homes for the HDC in phases.
The first two-year phase is for 204 flats at South Quay in POS and 235 at Lady Hailes Avenue in San Fernando at a cost of $71,739,411 USD. The contract sum for the first phase was stated in USD, which raises for me questions as to why it was not stated in TTD. The contract sum is equivalent to $490M TTD, so the average cost per unit exceeds $1.1M. That does not count the land of course, since we always seem to place no value on the land. Continue reading “Property Matters – New Public Housing”→
The 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”→
“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
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”→