PM delivers homes to Merikin descendants

While the as­pi­ra­tion for 180,000 cit­i­zens is the se­cu­ri­ty of a home from the Hous­ing De­vel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (HDC), Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley says that dream may nev­er be a re­al­i­ty for many.

It was be­cause while the Gov­ern­ment looks for more mon­ey to fund sub­sidised State-hous­ing, he says there is less than be­fore.

Speak­ing in the Merikins Vil­lage along Samuel Coop­er Road, Fifth Com­pa­ny Moru­ga, on Mon­day evening, Row­ley said it was wor­ri­some that peo­ple who can­not pay for a home were con­fined to per­ma­nence in harsh cir­cum­stances.

It was for this rea­son, he said the Hous­ing and Vil­lage Im­prove­ment Pro­gramme (HVIP) was launched. The In­ter-Amer­i­can Bank award-win­ning pro­gramme is a vil­lage-based aid­ed self-help pro­gramme in which low-in­come earn­ers in rur­al com­mu­ni­ties can ac­cess low cost but ac­cept­able hous­es.

Row­ley said that he has met and re­ceived cor­re­spon­dence from cit­i­zens who com­plained about ap­ply­ing to the HDC for up to 30 years and were yet to be al­lo­cat­ed a home.

“A teacher telling me, ‘I am a teacher and I’ve ap­plied to the HDC for 18 years,’” Row­ley said.

“Now that is a dif­fer­ent kind of sto­ry be­cause you just can’t sit back and wait for your life­time to get a gov­ern­ment house. Those peo­ple who are pre­pared to pay a mort­gage are ahead of you in the line. And you may nev­er get to the front of the line be­cause giv­en the de­mand for hous­es that peo­ple are pre­pared to pay for, those of you who do not have the means to pay for your own home, you seemed con­fined to a per­ma­nence that is wor­ri­some,” Row­ley said.

A dri­ve through Samuel Coop­er Road would show poor road con­di­tions, hous­es on the verge of falling apart and chil­dren dressed in ragged cloth­ing. The com­mu­ni­ty is com­prised of the de­scen­dants of for­mer Amer­i­can slaves who won their free­dom af­ter fight­ing with the British against the Amer­i­cans in the war of 1812. Fol­low­ing the war, these com­pa­nies of ser­vice­men and their fam­i­lies were re­set­tled in new vil­lages in Trinidad. They called them­selves Merikins and were freed­men be­fore slav­ery was abol­ished in Trinidad.

Back on the 2015 elec­tion trail, Row­ley and as­pir­ing MP Dr Lovell Fran­cis toured the com­mu­ni­ty and dis­cov­ered the squalor that ex­ist­ed. Row­ley said on Mon­day that he was em­bar­rassed as a long-stand­ing politi­cian to see how the vil­lagers lived.

Shar­ing his sto­ry, he said, “I stopped here in 2015 among a dozen or two young men some­where near­by here. They were grow­ing dasheens and they told me how they made a liv­ing, and they showed me where they lived. At least they were try­ing to make an hon­est liv­ing and they were mak­ing an hon­est liv­ing but they need­ed help.

“They had chil­dren and I was em­bar­rassed as a politi­cian of long stand­ing in this coun­try. I would have tak­en part in prob­a­bly 20-odd bud­gets and saw chil­dren grow­ing up in those cir­cum­stances. I spoke to your MP and said, we will get in­to gov­ern­ment with your sup­port and if we get noth­ing done at the end of our term, the con­di­tion which peo­ple live in this street, in this vil­lage, will change and it is chang­ing.”

Some 30 fam­i­lies ben­e­fit­ed from new homes while re­pairs were done to 10 hous­es in the com­mu­ni­ty. There is al­so a plan to up­grade the drainage and roads in the com­mu­ni­ty. The HVIP is ex­pect­ed to ben­e­fit the low-in­come fam­i­lies of Mara­bel­la, St Joseph, To­co and San­gre Grande.

- by Kevon Felmine

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