The Trinidad Guardian / Oropouche East MP Dr Roodal Moonilal says many of the 352 tenants who are in arrears in four Housing Development Corporation (HDC) communities are people who have lost their jobs in recent times.
His comment comes on the heels of a statement in Parliament on Friday by acting Prime Minister Colm Imbert, that the HDC had increased resources in a bid to recover the arrears and also to set up payment plans to help those who find it difficult to pay.
Imbert was speaking in the Senate in the capacity of acting Minister of Housing and Urban Development in the absence of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who assumed the housing ministry portfolio on April 9. Of the 352 errant tenants, Imbert said there were 56 in the East Grove community, 132 in the Oasis development, 18 at Eden Gardens and 146 at Cashew Gardens. He did not give the sum owed to the HDC.
Responding to Imbert yesterday, Moonilal, a former housing minister, said the steps being taken by the HDC were the “most illogical and heartless policy” by the ministry.
He described it as the “cruel irony” of the Government, who fired workers who had HDC homes and were paying their mortgages. He said it was the same Government who were hiring debt collectors to collect money the tenants cannot afford now due to their situations.
“This is obscene and nonsensical and speaks to a Government without compassion and an understanding of the needs of its citizens. I call upon the Ministry of Housing and the HDC to immediately profile those in debt and institute a humane policy of a moratorium on payments due in cases, particularly where such home owners in debt have been fired and/or retrenched or had their contracts terminated or not renewed by the very Government that now seeks to evict such HDC clients,” Moonilal said in a statement.
“It is shameful for the Government to fire a worker and then kick him out of a house for not paying his monthly instalment. Many persons on that list of 352 have been without jobs and had their small contracts terminated from which they eke out a living and paid their instalments.”
Calls and messages to HDC chairman Newman George and managing director Brent Lyon went yesterday.
For several years the HDC has been battling with errant tenants. Back in April 2017, Lyons told a Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) that up to April 13, 2017, 3,155 people were owing over $106 million, adding 79 per cent of their mortgage portfolio was in arrears. The HDC’s policy on debt recovery is to send letters of notice to errant tenants indicating they had seven days to respond. But Lyons told the PAAC the HDC was not in the business of putting people out of houses.
Last year, former housing minister Randall Mitchell said that once successful applicants occupied a unit, it was difficult to get them to complete their mortgage arrangements, which was a serious problem for HDC. The HDC relies on the conversion of its License-to-Occupy and Rent-to-Own programmes to mortgages in order to fund new development projects.