If you’re looking for house or land, Tobago may have a unique opportunity for you to explore.
Last week, an open invitation was sent out by the Tobago House of Assembly’s Division of Settlements Urban Renewal and Public Utilities (DOSURPU) to land developers to aid in the construction of homes.
In a full page advertisement posted in the daily newspapers last week, the DOSURPU said the invitation for expressions of interest from Land developers was a part of its plan “for the delivery of its Housing Development Incentive Program.”
The advertisement explained further that it was part of the divisions plan “in fulfilling its mandate to provide affordable housing solutions.”
The invitation continued, “the creation of a new Housing Development Incentive Program (HDIP) is aimed at stimulating private development in the housing sector by encouraging private land developers to develop service lots to satisfy the current demand for affordable housing solutions.”
The division hopes the successful applications would able to help them provide homes for the numerous applicants on the Division’s Housing Application and Fulfilment system database.
Clarence Jacob, Secretary of Settlements, Urban Renewal and Public Utilities told the Business Guardian that there are currently 7000 applicants on the Database.
“We have a database of 7,000, we can’t facilitate the 7,000 on the database So as much as possible, once person could meet the requirement,” said Jacob who explained that the demand for housing in Tobago continued to grow.
“There is a great demand for housing in Tobago, there is great demand for housing in Tobago. Both land and houses,” he said. “Remember the last construction took place in 2016, (with) townhouses and you know persons graduate from school. Persons start a new life and basically as a norm, persons would want to have their own space to live. You know in Tobago, the population is increasing.”
He said with this increase in population and academic development on the island, the need for housing would only intensify.
“Persons are still getting better jobs upgrading their standard. So whilst you upgrade your academics and maybe your job you may be getting a better salary based on that persons would want to have been own space and its traditional that people in Tobago would want to have their own home. So that is that is the situation,” he said.
While the advertisement asked for land developers to provide land, for which the minimum size per lot is 5,000 square feet, the Secretary of the DOSURPU said they were also looking at the use of state lands to help provide affordable housing in Tobago.
The Division’s advertisement stated, “State lands would also be provided to land developers on terms and conditions to be agreed upon to participants without lands who wish to participate in the programme.”
“I can’t tell you off the top of my head there is a quantum of state land at this time but we would try to make state land available,” Jacob said, “We have to understand with state lands, we have state lands for Agriculture,we have state lands for factories and industries and we have state land for houses. So for houses, under the division of settlements, we will try to make available some lands that would be a part of that program. But we are basically looking for, as well are persons who have the land, and would develop the land and then put it on the market.”
The developed plots, he explained should be more appealing to investors, particularly those who don’t have the capital at this time to undertake their own land development and Jacob felt conversely it may provide an opportunity for land owners who had been struggling to sell land previously.
“It would be an easier sell for them maybe to develop the land and then go through the database that we have and then the division would provide a subsidy of 25% to the price, the purchase price . So persons might be able to sell the land easier,” he said.
Public private partnerships are not new to public housing, as several Housing Development Corporation Settlements have their roots in such arrangements. At several sod turnings and key distribution ceremonies for HDC projects in the Trinidad there have been calls from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley for the private sector to step up in the provision of public housing.
Jacob also noted that the programme would allow applicants to seek out particular housing styles as opposed to set models commonly seen in public housing settlements across the country. This too he felt would make it more appealing to applicants.
“As I said before there are persons who would rather lands, and some would rather houses. You know some persons rather maybe based on your, where you come from, your background. For example, I would prefer land to build my own house because I would want maybe a bigger kitchen. The partitions I might want to maybe put a certain style. what we want to do in the division, we want to do some model houses with them,” he said, “Put them for persons to be able to peruse and therefore when we doing the construction we would do construction based on the different models. And those different models will have a different price, so there are persons who would qualify for a maximum of maybe $850,000. A next person might be qualified for $450,000. So we trying to work in a kind of holistic way to provide for all.”
The models would form the basis for future construction based on their demand.
Land developers applying to the programme would also need to provide minimum services of water, and wastewater, electricity and drainage as well as road access.
The land developer is also responsible for obtaining approvals from all statutory regulatory authorities for residential lots.
According to the notice issued, developed plots with a selling price and not exceeding $500,000 will receive a 25% subsidy provided by the THA. The ad continued, “The subsidy amount would be provided in respects of each successful participant of the HDIP provided that the successful participant is an applicant from the divisions Housing Application and Fulfilment database.”
However the application comes with a cost, as interested participants must purchase the program package for a non-refundable fee of $500.