“Our research has also informed us that there are a number of persons who have already received lands, finished construction and are renting – but are still squatting. So they are squatting and collecting rent…We’re going to deal with these persons. We’re going to break them down. We are going to serve them notice and if they don’t remove, we’re going to take the structures down.” – Minister Valerie Patterson
In order to restore order within the Capital – Georgetown, and other areas where
squatting in prevalent, the enforcement arm of the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) will be strengthened with the recruitment of additional enforcement officers to boost the Agency’s Planning function.
This is according to the Minister within the Ministry of Communities – with responsibility for Housing, Valerie Patterson.
The Minister was at the time delivering a report on the CH&PA’s performance for last year at the agency’s headquarters on Brickdam, Georgetown yesterday where she highlighted some of CH&PA’s achievements, challenges, and plans for this year.
The Housing Minister told media operatives that the CH&PA’s enforcement arm is facing ‘serious’ challenges, particularly in squatter-settlements.
“When our officers go on the ground to keep order, they are being threatened with cutlasses and guns, and all sort of things. In many cases they have to retreat, but CH&PA has to bring order to our housing area, and therefore, we recognize we have to boost that department so that we can be better able to perform our duties,” Patterson said.
The Minister also made it clear that the CH&PA is not into landlordism and plans are afoot to deal with instances where squatters have already received lands, already constructed homes, but are renting to other individuals.
“Our research has also informed us that there are a number of persons who have already received lands, finished construction and are renting – but are still squatting. So they are squatting and collecting rent…We’re going to deal with these persons. We’re going to break them down. We are going to serve them notice and if they don’t remove, we’re going to take the structures down,” the Minister said.
Patterson said also that there are squatters who have applications in the system and are using it as an excuse to squat. The Minister said that the agency is going to pay close attention to these persons.
“The focus is going to be Sophia, East and West (Ruimveldt) and as we continue along the year, we are going to clean up. My take is: knowledgeable of the fact that some of these persons have applications in our systems for years, they use that as an excuse, and I quite understand, however, that does not give you a reason to squat, you can go rent.” I don’t believe that we should break those people down and leave them on the road.” She said.
Providing low-cost homes as an alternative
Further, the agency is also looking at the option of providing “very low-cost” houses to accommodate squatters before removing them from Government reserves. The agency will focus mainly on Georgetown, particularly the aforementioned areas.
Patterson said that the CH&PA has already indentified one location so far, and discussions are being held with the Minister of Communities, Ronald Bulkan, as they further explore this option.
“Most of these people have no formal employment and all that. So we are going to build some low-cost homes and offer it to them – not free – but as an alternative, and so if you don’t take it, we have to move you. We have to restore order in the city.”
The Minister reported that in the areas indentified, there is an environmental issue developing, because the canals cannot be cleared, and this is coupled with the pit latrines hanging over the canals.
“I said over the television once of what I saw – a child going down into that canal to wash kitchen utensils. If we don’t deal with it, (then) we are just as guilty, but I believe rather than break people down and cause a ruckus, (we) provide shelter for them; give them an opportunity to have a place to go,”
Meanwhile, the agency for 2017 will be looking at the implementation of an integrated and comprehensive approach in the planning and design of settlements and the regularisation of squatting areas.
For 2016, 221 regularized squatters received allocation letters, with 21 areas slated to be regularised in 2017 with a total of 1,852 lots expected to be made available for regularized housing.
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