Garcia confident on a restructured HDC
Clint Chan Tack
HOUSING Development Corporation (HDC) President Noel Garcia is confident that a restructured HDC will be more effective in carrying out its mandate to provide affordable housing to those who need it most. He expressed that confidence in response to questions from Independent Senator Amrita Deonarine during a virtual meeting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) on Wednesday.
At a key handover ceremony at HDC’s Carlton Place apartment towers in San Fernando on August 22, Housing and Urban Development Minister Camille Robinson-Regis said the Cabinet was considering revamping HDC to ensure more efficient delivery of housing to those who need it most.
The restructuring will see the creation of three companies under the HDC.
These are HDC Construction Company Ltd (to manage all elements of HDC property development), HDC Facilities Estate Management Company Ltd (dealing with issues such as maintenance of rental accommodation) and HDC Asset Management Company Ltd (which will have functions such as carrying out the sale of completed homes)
In his budget presentation to the House of Representatives on September 26, Finance Minister Colm Imbert said: “We anticipate that the HDC, as revamped, will now have greater financial flexibility, greater greater efficiency, better focus and the ability to quickly monetize real estate assets that cannot easily be filled in their current form. »
Garcia told Deonarine and other PAAC members that HDC affiliate boards were being filled.
Deonarine said that over time there have been concerns about “the continued deterioration in HDC’s financial performance”. She asked how the creation of three subsidiaries would improve the overall financial performance of HDC.
Garcia said each company will have a specific area of focus and collectively they will improve the overall performance of the company.
He also said HDC was looking for innovative ways to reduce some of its costs. One of these ways is to discuss with the Ministry of Rural Development and Local Government to have local government companies carry out work such as cutting grass and cleaning drains on HDC housing sites instead of the company assuming these functions. Garcia said HDC estimates it could save between $85 million and $90 million through such an approach.
Noting that the HDC receives an annual allocation of $1.5 billion, Garcia said $500 million of that sum is used to settle outstanding debts. Additional money to pay outstanding debts comes from collecting rent from HDC tenants and selling HDC properties.
He was optimistic that within the next 12 to 14 months HDC should be able to clear all of its outstanding debts.
HDC chief executive Jayselle Mc Farlane said about now that the company has $47 million in unpaid rent from people occupying its traditional rental properties. Here are some of the older HDC apartments where the company pays for electricity and water. McFarlane identified Duncan Street in Port of Spain as one of the locations where these apartments are located.
Tourism, Culture and the Arts Minister Randall Mitchell asked HDC officials what is being done to deal with tenant landlords who rent HDC apartments for $100 a month but live elsewhere and bill others people a rent of $2,500 a month or more to live there.
“What are you all doing to stop this practice?
HDC Division Manager (General Services), Jeremy Campbell, assured Mitchell that this issue was being addressed.
Mitchell, a former housing minister, also did not believe the publicly announced figure of 191,000 candidates on the HDC housing list was accurate.
He asked HDC officials, “When was the last time you cleared the list?” Mitchell said there may be situations where some of these people have since found homes through other means, migrated or died.
Opposition Senator Wade Mark has expressed concern about the vandalism of HDC homes during their construction and when they are completed. Garcia assured Mark that HDC is tackling this problem in a number of ways. These include working with police and private security companies and installing CCTV cameras in these properties.
Garcia said there would be no job losses at HDC and Robinson-Regis gave certain assurances to the unions that currently represent HDC workers on this matter.