Questions are being raised about the ongoing construction of what real estate experts estimate to be a multimillion-dollar house at Tobago House of Assembly’s (THA) highly subsidised Blenheim housing project at Hope, Tobago.
Pictures of the house under construction at lot 64 began circulating last week on various social media platforms.
This is because the Heights of Blenheim project, one of five undertaken by the THA over the past 20 years, caters to low-income earners.
Questions arose as to who would be able to fund such a property given the fact that it specifically targets low-income earners and whether the owners would have had permission to undertake such construction.
According to information from the THA, the Blenheim project started in May 2006 and was to be completed by January 2007.
There was a salary cap of $10,000 before applicants could apply for the houses and begin the process of acquiring deeds of mortgage and deeds of sale.
Single unit houses and condominiums, not lands, were sold to qualifying applicants at three estates–Blenheim, Castara and Adventure. In other projects at Signal Hill and Calder Hall Phases 1and 2, lands were sold to applicants. The THA’s Division of Settlements is responsible for the distribution of the lands and homes. According to documents from the THA, in 2010, the market value of a three-bedroom house and land at the Blenheim Estate was $585,000 and a two-bedroom unit cost $335,000.
The documents noted that after taxpayers’ funds were injected, the houses were sold at a subsidised price of $410,000 and $177,000 respectively.
In 2010, a Report of the Commission of Enquiry into the construction sector revealed that the houses were “unsellable.”
The Government-sponsored inquiry noted that “despite the houses being substantially complete for over a year, much of the infrastructure work remained to be done.”
It discovered too that the total cost allocated for building 141 homes was $18,429,732 but only 61 houses were built for $18,306,876.
“…The continuing delay waiting for infrastructure works to render the houses habitable represents a further loss…,” the report concluded. Some of the units were never occupied. The commission also reported that “slope failures resulted in complete loss of (some) units.”
Tobago Today reached out to the THA Secretary of Settlements, Urban Renewable and Public Utilities Clarence Jacob for comment on the ownership of the property and the concerns raised about whether its owners, if they can afford such expense, should have qualified to secure it given the target market for the development.
“I do not have all the details at hand, but when I get them I will make it available,” Jacobs said.
The area representative for the Canaan/Bon Accord electoral district, who recently sent a pre-action protocol letter to two members of the constituency for allegedly slandering him, is currently facing the People’s National Movement’s screening committee as he seeks re-election to represent the party in the upcoming THA elections.