Political Leader of the UNC warns of costly litigation to the State: “Thousands of HDC applicants who were successful in the HDC application have a legitimate expectation of receiving their homes based on the mere success of their application and the subsequent promise to them by the State. To suddenly renege on that promise opens a floodgate to litigation”-Kamla Persad Bissessar.
November 20th 2015: On the heels of higher gas prices, the looming property tax, inflation and the sudden increase in food prices, the PNM Government has announced a change of policy relative to the distribution of Housing Development Corporation (HDC) homes.
This policy, which can most aptly be described as draconian and autocratic would lead to thousands of our hard working citizens being struck off the list of eligible persons who had successfully applied for homes from the HDC. In a highly insensitive move, the Government has announced with immediate effect that only persons who live in households where the total income is less than $25,000 per month will be eligible for a HDC home.
The previous ceiling established by the People’s Partnership administration was $45,000.00 which had acted pursuant to the legislation in its determination of the limit of qualifying persons for affordable housing. That law prescribed housing for “low and middle income persons.” It was after long consideration that the Partnership Government sought to set the ceiling at $45,000.00 as a number of our citizens could not otherwise own a home given the cost of private home development. It is highly reprehensible, misleading and politically mischievous to suggest that the Partnership acted illegally. Our actions were always in accordance with law and followed dialogue in the interest of the people.
It is ironic that the PNM Government would claim illegality on our part when in fact they are the ones whose untimely and harsh decision can be questioned in a Court of competent jurisdiction. In the first instance, the PNM’s illegality lies in its breach of the fundamental principle of legitimate expectation. In law, a legitimate expectation applies the principles of fairness and reasonableness to a situation where a person has an expectation or interest in a public body or private parties retaining a long-standing practice or keeping a promise. Thousands of HDC applicants who were successful in the HDC application have a legitimate expectation of receiving their homes based on the mere success of their application and the subsequent promise to them by the State. To suddenly renege on that promise opens a floodgate to litigation.
The PNM’s decision can also be subject to ‘judicial review’ which allows for judicial control of administrative action. Generally in law a decision of the State can be reviewed on the grounds of ‘illegality’, ‘irrationality’, and ‘procedural impropriety’. The instant case surely raises the possibility of a review by our Courts.
Indeed, this abrupt change in policy is a breach of the substantive legitimate expectations of a number of persons who have been selected for housing based on the former criteria. There is absolutely no overriding public interest which can justify this government’s change in position to the detriment of those persons whom the State have promised housing, and can be struck down by the Courts as an unfair and unjustified and/or unreasonable departure from the former practice and promises made.
This policy position adopted by the PNM is highly unreasonable, irrational and perverse to good governance. It is rash and it is harsh. It is a reckless move against thousands of our hard working citizens who fall within the lower income earning class.
The PP Government built its platform on equity, equal opportunity and empowerment of the working class. The PNM is obviously doing the opposite.
In the interest of the people of Trinidad and Tobago, we insist that the policy be reviewed. We demand a more compassionate stance towards the less fortunate in our society. To do otherwise would be heartless, unlawful and unpardonable by a nation in distress.