Government properties formerly occupied by senior public servants, ranging from Port-of-Spain condos to houses in central Trinidad and Mayaro are being put up for sale, starting with the Federation Park Villas.
Public Administration Minister Marlene McDonald said it’s part of a Cabinet-mandated drive to put Government’s portfolio of properties in order, selling off those which won’t be kept. It is part of a Property Management Information System devised by the ministry which also tracks permanent secretaries and other senior public servants who are about to retire so that notice can be sent to them to vacate any government premises they might be occupying.
The exercise began last Thursday when the ministry advertised for sale 12 villas at Jamaica Boulevard, Federation Park. Bids were invited for units on an “as is, where is” basis. The offer is limited to T&T citizens and facilitates a leasehold interest of 99 years for each unit. The estimated price is approximately $3.3 million each.
McDonald said raising revenue isn’t the objective of current and upcoming sales.
“The Public Administration Ministry is the landlord of Government properties all over Trinidad and Tobago from north to central and Mayaro and down the Islands,” she said.
She estimated the value of Government’s property stock at approximately $336 million.
“We’ve been doing assessments of villas and government quarters since last year, including in a bid to deal with illegal occupation,” Ms Donald explained.
“Many properties have been languishing and it’s time people realise someone—Government—owns these properties.”
The minister pointed out that it wasn’t lower-income people in some properties but people who got free housing due to their position and they had never vacated those premises.
The ministry’s exercise revealed some instances where people had lived at units and were deceased but their relatives were still on site.
“Decisions have to be made on what will be refurbished or sold since we’re renewing the property stock,” she said.
Old stock, some of which were once occupied by public servants or other officials, may be headed for the marketplace and newer stock, such as the Victoria Keys units in Diego Martin and others, are being retained.
Government is retaining a few units at some developments, such as Federation Villas, which will be used to house consultants, visiting personnel or other officials.
McDonald said the sale drive is being started with properties in Port-of-Spain and west Trinidad. Next on the list of sales is likely to be certain Flagstaff units which are now unoccupied. McDonald admitted there had been challenges with some tenants in that location but declined to give further details.
However, checks with other officials revealed instances where some occupiers had delayed in relocating. This included a former senior public servant who had occupied one unit for 10 years after retirement, had possession there but lived at the location at “seasonal times”. He moved out a few weeks ago after discussions were held with him, it was confirmed.
McDonald said some of Government’s other properties around T&T are occupied.
“I suspect the policy will be to offer it—first preference—to those who are in occupancy currently and this will be at market value,” she said.
McDonald said since the Federation Villas ad emerged, the Ministry had been deluged with expressions of interest.