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HDC failing some tenants

Published: 
Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Often the national dialogue about public housing centres around the long waiting list of applicants at the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) and that state agency’s failure to adequately meet the needs of middle and low-income citizens.

The plight of 26 families who have been waiting for a decade to be relocated from a partially burnt out HDC apartment complex at Marcano Quarry in east Port-of-Spain adds another disturbing dimension to the matter of public housing.

These tenants, many of them old age pensioners, have been enduring squalid conditions in crumbling, vermin-infested apartments, paying rent for units that are not fit for human habitation. So far there is no word, either from HDC officials or the Housing Ministry, about when these tenants will be moved into more suitable accommodations.

Sadly, this isn’t an isolated case. There are other HDC developments in similarly deplorable conditions.

Add to that the number of apartment and housing units that have been left vacant—either never allocated or vacated by their occupants—that have been left to deteriorate.

In too many cases, vandals have moved in and stripped units of fixtures, while others have become drug dens and criminal havens.

This situation brings into focus the poor state of the HDC’s security, maintenance and repair systems.

Adding to the country’s public housing stock should not be about only building new units and launching new settlements. Contractors, engineers and other professionals in the construction sector should be mobilised for a programme of repairing and rebuilding that can make affordable homes available to the thousands of citizens in desperate need.

Time to revisit Education Act

Recent alleged incidents of assault and extortion at Siparia West Secondary has once again brought an unfavourable spotlight on the issues of discipline and security at the nation’s schools. Although Education Minister Anthony Garcia has been confidently claiming a reduction in school violence, enough incidents are being reported, occasionally backed up by videos posted on social media, for concerns to persist about the safety of students at primary and secondary schools across the country.

It is clear that the country’s education landscape has changed significantly, particularly in the last two decades, with technological advancements that have been both a blessing and curse in the classroom.

The very technology that now enhances teaching methods can also be exploited for negative purposes, including cyber bullying.

All these raise questions about the relevance and effectiveness of the Education Act. It just may be time for a review of this legislation and accompanying rules and policies to ensure issues in the T&T education system of the 21st century are properly addressed.

Positive focus on T&T’s First People

T&T’s Carib Community at Santa Rosa must be commended for their pivotal role in organising the First People’s Heritage Week which culminates with a one-off First Peoples public holiday on Friday.

The cultural and educational value of these commemorative events cannot be understated. Although there may never be another First Peoples holiday, certainly some way can be found to celebrate this group which is an important but often overlooked part of the country’s unique social fabric.