Squatter regularisation, including granting of statutory leases for State lands, and the reintroduction of the rent-to-own housing programme will be priorities of new Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Marlene McDonald.
“What has happened over the last five years, is that not one single statutory lease has been given to squatters.
Instead, there was this method of giving squatters a Certificate of Comfort. I want to tell you all, and to tell Trinidad and Tobago, a certificate of comfort does not give you security of land tenure. All it does, is give you protection from being thrown out of your own house,” she said.
McDonald spoke with the media yesterday at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s, following the swearing-in ceremony of ministers of the new Government.
“What we will be concentrating on, under the Ministry of Housing, is beginning the granting of statutory leases, so persons can have a sense of security.
They can have land tenure.
They can go to the bank. They could take out a loan, do house refurbishment, etc.” On the rent-to-own programme, she said, she would like to see people who have been in houses and paying rent for a number of years, and at some point in time, be able to buy them.
“We can move from just rentals into a mortgage payment, and of course, for us to start building affordable houses for the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago,” she said.
“That is going to be my priority and also it is going to be done in the areas that are most vulnerable,” she said.
Asked whether she will continue her predecessor Dr Roodal Moonilal’s housing distribution programme, she said, “I don’t know where the (100 houses a week) are coming from, what state that programme is in. Whether persons actually received those houses.
So that’s why I said, the first thing to do, is, to do an evaluation of the programmes that are there now.” Asked to assess Moonilal’s performance as Housing Minister, she said, “Well, I can’t assess that. You see from the outside looking in, you are hearing things. You are seeing what is being done, but then you are hearing something else from ordinary people who deal with the ministry.” While she spoke about her priorities, she said, after visiting her new office on Monday, she said the first thing she will do, is to assess and evaluate what she finds. “I don’t know what I am going to meet,” she said.
“You will see major changes coming from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development.
All I ask for is patience, as I do my work,” she said.
The PNM has always been the government that provides affordable housing to citizens, so, she said, “I am saying to all of Trinidad and Tobago, be patient and cooperate, as I deliver.”