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Waiting decades for public housing

Frustrated citizens share their stories
Published: 
Sunday, July 23, 2017
Country FirsTT founder Daren Mc Leod, Jackie Burgess and Professor Patrick Watson in conversation after the meeting at the Port-of-Spain City Hall.

Saidah Long was 19 and pregnant with her first child when she applied to the then National Housing Authority (NHA) for a home. Her son is now 17 and Long is still renting and awaiting a response from the Housing Development Corporation (HDC).

She was among scores of citizens who showed up on Friday at the Port-of-Spain City Hall for a public meeting hosted by Country FirsTT to highlight how the housing crisis has affected citizens.

Country FirsTT was founded by Daren Mc Leod, a former UNC councillor who resigned after just one year in the position.

Many of the people at the meeting expressed dissatisfaction over the length of time they have been waiting to be allocated HDC housing. Some said they have been waiting for more than 35 years.

Economist Professor Patrick Watson, who spoke at the event, said housing is a right, no less than health or education.

“I want to stress that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights No 25 recognises adequate housing as a human right,” he said, adding that governments are expected to provide affordable housing, which they do in advanced countries.

“We are not a poor country by any stretch of the imagination. Yes, we go through periods of difficulties . . . no fault of ours,” Watson said.

“Over the last 30 years or so, billions of dollars have passed through this country and houses have been built. Some are falling apart, they are rotting, they are being vandalised and it is time we put a stop to that.”

Public servant Nathifa Melville said she applied in 2002 and in 2015 she was called for an interview and told she qualified for a mortgage.

“They told me the places I qualified for,” she said.

However, two years later, she still has not been allocated a house.

“I have exhausted all avenues and I am quite tired,” she said.

Mc Leod urged HDC applicants to come up with plans, mobilise and multiply for the next meeting.

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