Breaking Ground: Housing Minister, Edmund Dillon (centre) and MP for St Joseph, Terrence Deyalsingh, turn the sod for the Pioneer Drive Project in Mt Hope. In photo are Noel Garcia, HDC Chairman (left), Darren Winchester, Councillor for the area and Kurt Salandy, HDC Board Member. (Image: HDC)

The Housing Development Corporation (HDC) officially kicked-off its Small and Medium Contractors (SMC) Housing Initiative today (Tuesday June 16), with a sod turning ceremony for the Pioneer Drive Project in Mt. Hope.

Both Housing and Urban Development Minister Edmund Dillon, and Member of Parliament for St. Joseph, Terrence Deyalsingh—along with HDC executives—were present to break ground on the 12-unit project, which is the first project to be initiated under the SMC Initiative.

Also present to witness the sod turning were Councillor for the area, Darren Winchester; HDC Chairman, Noel Garcia; HDC Board members; and the three selected contractors for the project.

In a news release, the HDC notes that the SMC Initiative was formally launched in January 2020, and “was conceptualised to stimulate economic activity, mobilise the capacity in the construction sector and create jobs, while at the same time meaningfully addressing the high demand for housing”.

The HDC also states that “all homes constructed in this programme will be done by small and medium-sized builders and will cost under $500,000”.

“In addition to small and medium builders benefitting from this initiative, low income earners who are unable to afford a mortgage on properties that are over $500,000, will also benefit,” said HDC Managing Director Brent Lyons. “This initiative, therefore, allows low income earners such as the cleaner, the fast food worker, the clerical officer or even the young self-employed earner, to access affordable housing opportunities from the state.”

Housing Minister, Major General Edmund Dillon, reported that HDC has moved to ensure it can provide options for those who cannot qualify to purchase an HDC house at current construction prices because they do not have the means.

“The HDC has been adjusting and repositioning itself to better serve the needs of the clientele, particularly the 83% of the applicants on the public housing database who earn less than $9,000.00 per month. These factors are what contributed to the development of the Small and Medium Contractors Housing Initiative,” the minister stated.

He added: “The Government views this new initiative as an additional economic stimulus that will positively impact the housing construction sector, by creating jobs for skilled and semi-skilled workers, as well as generating indirect employment opportunities and satisfying some of the demand for affordable housing.”

Meanwhile, Member of Parliament for St. Joseph, Terrence Deyalsingh, noted that the project will provide additional housing solutions “for those who desire to live in this part of the country”.

“This project allows the small and medium man to get a piece of the pie—therefore, the whole spectrum is being catered for, with this project,” he said.

In addition to the Pioneer Drive Project, which will yield twelve townhouse units, construction on other SMC projects are expected to begin within four weeks.

Three small contractors are working together on the Pioneer Drive project, which is scheduled to be completed in under six months. Once completed, these units will be allocated to eligible low-income earners from the public housing database.