Monday, November 18, 2013

Commentary: We have the land; Let's build communities

HDC houses in Trinidad
I am no expert on housing but I find it hard to believe that there are no state lands in Trinidad and Tobago for building homes for people.

I trust that the media reported HDC boss Jearlean John accurately when they quoted her as saying that there is little or no state lands available to build homes. 

If that statement is accurate then Jearlean must truly out of touch with reality. All she has to do is take a helicopter ride over the country and she would see thousands of acres waiting to be developed into new communities.

But if she and the HDC are only interested in fighting with Pineapple Smith and continue to have a narrow vision of where to build houses then I would agree we are running out of land.

One of the problems with the HDC - and this is not new or unique to the present administration - is that it has never seen housing development for citizens as building communities. SO it built ghettos instead of developing communities with all the necessary amenities.

If for example, the HDC officials were to leave their offices and go out into the countryside and identify some land for housing and think outside of the box for a change and develop the land you would find that we could get entire new communities all over the country.

Trinidad and Tobago are small islands. People live in Cedros and go to work in San Fernando and Port of Spain. So distance is not a big problem. But what we have to do is stop building ghettos that breed frustration.

Let us be imaginative and take one hundred acres of virgin state lands. We then develop it with a fixed number of housing lots, reserve space for a health centre, a community centre, a small shopping mall, a fire station a police station, a multi-purpose government services centre and other facilities for sport and recreation. 
Forested state lands in Trinidad
After we do that we put a cost to it all and make all this available at cost to anyone who wants to settle in this community. So instead of the inflated land prices people get a chance to buy a plot of land at a reasonable cost. Then provide HDC soft loans and a choice of pre-approved building plans.

If you do this in 10 or 20 parts of the country all of a sudden you would generate employment, create communities and drastically cut the list of people waiting for state handouts. Instead of handing fish to the people, we would teach them how to fish. And we would build real communities with people taking responsibility for the communities.

And thousands of people would be happier because they would see a home within reach.

It's a radical kind of approach but it is not new. When Caroni limited existed it had a similar program and people were able to build homes and communities. Jearlean should take a drive into some of these communities and compare them with what the HDC has done in the past and is doing today. 

She could ask her minister, Roodal Moonilal, who knows about that Caroni program because he was a part of the sugar union that fought for it and made it a reality.

The HDC can continue some of what it is doing. The Land Settlement Agency can also do what it is doing but why can't the HDC consider another approach? 

If people have a chance to build their own homes on land they could afford tens of thousands of them would do it instead of waiting for a house from the HDC. And I would say with certainty that the homes they would get would cost a fraction of the cost of an HDC home. 

Let us start discarding some of the old ways of state thinking and work with innovative people solutions and we would have a better country. All we need is the political will to make some changes.

We have the land. Let's build some communities and stop finding excuses.

Jai Parasram - 16 November 2013

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai