(Trinidad Express) Is the elevator, which was recently installed at the Prime Minister’s official residence, “over-designed and over-subscribed”?
This is the question Opposition Leader Dr Keith Rowley asked yesterday following a Sunday Express report on the issue.
“The question is what is the Prime Minister’s residence doing with an elevator at the residence (with a capacity) to carry 15 people up nine floors as against four or six people up two floors. It can’t be the same elevator requirements,” he told reporters at a news conference at his Charles Street, Port of Spain office yesterday.
Rowley stressed that if it is determined that there was need for an elevator at the Prime Minister’s residence, he would have no problem with one being put there. “But it certainly can’t be one to carry 15 people up nine floors. So if somebody has taken an elevator that has been bought for a multi-storey building…then we need to get an explanation as to whether or not these elevators are uni-purpose or if in fact it has been over-designed and oversubscribed,” he said.
Rowley said more importantly was the fact that the elevator was reportedly originally assigned to the Housing Development Corporation project, Victoria Keyes. He said he had raised the issue of Government dragging its feet in completing the Victoria Keyes housing units.
He noted that the Government was remodelling at least one set of those units, upgrading and upscaling them “to made them available to persons as second units (homes) and for persons for whom they were not designed”.
Recalling that the tiles were being dug up and the windows and sinks changed, Rowley said: “If they are now upgrading those units at Victoria Keyes to bring them into a higher price range, we expect the HDC to be in conflict with the people who have their eye on those units in my constituency and I would be in the forefront in leading the charge against the Government behaviour when it is time to allocate those units in Victoria Keyes.”
HDC’s managing director Jearlean John however said yesterday that the HDC’s policy was very clear—the Corporation could not allocate a home to anyone who already has a house or who is a co-joint owner of a home. She said the HDC’s lawyers did rigorous checks on applicants to ensure that this rule was followed so there was no question of the HDC giving anyone a second home.
John said the Victoria Keyes homes were not being made available to “big shots” but to young professionals who cannot afford homes on the private market. “All HDC houses are for people in need of a home,” she stressed, adding that this group included lower and lower-middle income persons. She added as long as persons qualified—they are a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago and don’t already own a home, and they applied to the HDC—they underwent a means test.
This test would assess their income and would dictate where they would go in terms of the HDC’s housing projects. She stressed that the HDC has to build homes for everyone, including those at the lower to middle end.
John said middle-class homes have been part of the HDC policy for a number of years, including under the former administration.