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It’s about time, HDC!
Hats off to the HDC for finally coming around to the realisation that it will be almost impossible to meet the growing demand for affordable housing with a ballooning application database of some 170, 000. This new initiative of government-aided self-help housing is indeed a step in the right direction and should put a dent in the number of applicants seeking housing from the HDC.
Recently we witnessed the HDC drifting away from its original moorings of the provision of affordable housing for the lower and middle income socio-economic group and gradually drifting towards the provision of housing for the upper echelons of society as evidenced by the now infamous Victoria Keyes housing project.
The decision to put these housing units up for sale on the open market is in an effort to recoup the obscene and wasteful expenditure of public funds on fantasy housing projects much beyond the reach of middle and lower income groups in T&T is as much an exercise in politics as in economics. The lowering of the qualifying limit (joint income) to $45, 000 and the switching of focus to the provision of rental, although well intentioned, still left thousands out of the loop and without the hope of owning their own homes.
The proposed new arrangement where would-be applicants pay only some 30 per cent of the current market price must be a boon for lower and lower-middle income earners and represents a reversal of a top-down policy with respect to land acquisition and has the potential to act as a fillip to stimulate the local construction industry.
With the promise of non-financial assistance, technical support, including a pool of approved contractors, without prejudice to persons opting to use their own designs, this is an opportunity of a lifetime. In addition, with a proviso that the combined household income which must not exceed a ceiling of $25,000, renders the plan as tailored-made for a specific lower income group.
The promise that upon receipt of land successful applicants can also access mortgages from TTMF at a low rate of interest, it also opens up opportunities for non-banking financial institutions such as credit unions to expand their investment portfolio base into the housing sector.
This is indeed an exercise in trickle-down economics, is a way of spreading the country’s wealth and patrimony to the lower echelons of society and a means of trying to close the gap between the rich and the poor which is increasingly becoming a chasm as the recession bites.
Alarm bells ring, however! If concomitant with this important initiative, there isn’t a crackdown on the apparent mushrooming of new squatter settlements throughout the country, this shall become an exercise in futility.