Tobagos land is a gold mine. Its so valuable that
its beyond the reach of most Tobagonians. Property value
has shot up in the last six years with land being retailed
for as much as $80 a square foot. There has been a concentration
of development on the Leewards side of the island, but more
centred on the coast.
While it means a plethora of villas, hotels, gated communities
and guest houses for the sister isle, locals are feeling the
pinch. Owning property on their own island has become difficult
for some, while others have to shell out the same amount as
any investor to acquire a piece of land.
hardly get land for $10 a square foot anymore. In Bon Accord,
it goes for about $80 a square foot and in Crown Point, about
$100, said local land evaluator Ronald Leslie.
all about demand and supply and theres only so much
land available so it has to become expensive, said Rene
Seepersadsingh, president of the Tobago Hoteliers Association.
To stem the inflow of foreign owners and private investments,
the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) has started to buy prime
property for residential purposes.
At a recent luncheon at the T&T Chamber of Commerce, THA
Chief Secretary Orville London said Tobagos recent $90
million acquisition of the 350-acre Courland Estate was to
develop housing for the local community.
While London has not expanded on his plans for the estate,
land evaluator David Knott believes it is a tremendous opportunity
for a resort investment.
the THA decides they are going to remove assets from the market,
they have to explain what they are going to do with it,
The THA has also been negotiating with the Ansa McAl group
to acquire Pigeon Point at a price set by independent evaluators.
It is expected to cost the THA about $200 million.
Janet Arnold, president of the Tobago Chamber of Commerce,
said the THA had to step in to ensure that Tobagonians were
provided with affordable homes.
average person in Tobago cannot buy land, she stated.
The THA already has National Housing Authority schemes at
Calder Hill, Signal Hall, Canaan/Bon Accord and Speyside to
provide homes for Tobagonians.
THA is one of the biggest landowners in Tobago and owns most
of the estates along the Atlantic coastline. They should look
at ways those lands should be used to benefit the population
rather that tell Tobagonians who to sell their land to,
Knott echoed the views of Arnold and Seepersadsingh for the
THA to revisit the Foreign Investment Act of 1990 and develop
a land policy.
He pointed out that a foreign investor can acquire land not
exceeding five acres for the purposes of trade or business
without obtaining a licence. Knott added that foreigners can
acquire land which does not exceed one acre for residential
He said the THA should take the lead and go to the guts
of the island and make it a vigorous component of the
is an open market and the value is based on what foreign investment
has done to the island. And this included speculators from
Trinidad who have the money and who purchase property to sell
again. From what Im seeing theres a lot of that
going on, said Leslie.
Knott said Trinidadians are the ones sending up the value
of Tobago land by buying up property.
Residential land in Scarborough and southwest of Tobago is
getting scarce. He explained that prices have gone up because
people are willing to pay for it.
demand increased, the price increased and property is still
being sold because people want to buy it. And its not
foreigners, its Trinidadians, he explained.
He pointed out the T&T economy has been buoyant and people
with money were investing in real estate.
prices are lower than in Trinidad right now, so its
a bargain for them, he said.
While the demand may limit the land available for people in
Tobago, for every buyer there is a someone ready to sell,
Knott pointed out.
development in Tobago is now residential sub-divisions in
certain specific areas and gated premises where people enjoy
a better clientele. In order to command a certain clientele,
you get a piece of land, develop it and gate it.
means, therefore, there are certain type of people you are
looking for to live there. In order to have that type of security,
you have to pay for it. Those retail for about $5 million,
Leslie noted that high property prices have led to an increase
in the islands cost of living.
prices keep going up because every time something happens
in Trinidad, like recent vegetable shortage, you feel the
brunt of it in Tobago, he said.
Seepersadsingh said everything costs 20 per cent more in Tobago
than it is in Trinidad.
Comparatively, it is significantly lower than the other Caribbean
islands, he said.
Its hoteliers who feel the brunt of it when investors
capitalise on the local market by setting up guesthouses and
renting to foreigners.
come here and build guest houses and they are not following
the law, not registering their properties and not paying proper
taxes, he explained.
This is leading to a watered down industry which
will put pressure on the existing infrastructure.
infrastructure is in place? The Government has not accepted
the responsibility and I am not satisfied the infrastructure
can accommodate any increase. Everything is being built but
can the existing infrastructure support the housing spurt?
The State cannot give that kind of insurance to investors,
Seepersadsingh said one has to be cautious not to overdevelop
the island with guesthouses and rooms because it was only
just recovering from the bad period after September 11.
He said Tobago was also able to capitalise on the tsunami
disaster in Asia as its now seen as a safer alternative.