Citizens’ right to land must follow rule of law

– says Minister Croal
– reminds public that squatting is illegal
Applying for house lots at the Ministry of Housing’s CH&PA outreach at the Chateau Margot Primary School

Minister of Housing and Water, Mr. Collin Croal says that while the Government is cognisant that citizens do have a right to land for housing, they can only obtain access lawfully and utilising the procedures established by the relevant agency.

The Minister made these statements on the heels of remarks from former Housing Minister, Ms. Annette Ferguson, during an APNU/AFC Press Conference on Thursday.  He observed that Ms. Ferguson’s misinterpretation of the Constitution and the rule of law was a blatant attempt to incite confusion among the squatters at Success, East Coast Demerara and those countrywide.

“A citizen’s right to land must not be obscured by his or her obligation to follow the rule of law. It is simple, persons cannot occupy private lands without facing the consequences. The sensible thing to do is to discourage persons from squatting and to encourage them to acquire land using the legitimate process in place by the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA),” he explained in a release Friday.  

The Minister also rubbished claims that he has employed anything but a humanitarian approach to the Success squatters’ plight.  On hearing of the challenges there, Minister Croal and a team from the CH&PA; Chairman of the Better Hope/Success/LBI Neighbourhood Democratic Council (NDC), Mr. Zaman Shaw and representatives from the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) engaged the squatters twice on the ground: on Saturday, August 17 and Tuesday, September 8, 2020.

Those meetings were followed-up with two additional face-to-face meetings with the squatters at the Ministry. Further, on October 1, a team was dispatched to the Chateau Margot Primary School to start a house lot registration exercise geared at assisting these families in their quest for lawful homeownership.

Minister Croal disclosed that the Government is being guided by a strategic plan for housing to deliver a minimum of 10,000 serviced house lots annually, over the next five years.

The Government has already introduced a number of measures, including mortgage interest relief for low and middle-income homeowners as well as increased the limit for low-income loans, and the reversal of VAT on building materials where it was imposed. These are measures geared at giving every eligible citizen increased access and availability to financing for homeownership. It is part of the Government’s continued drive to increase the disposable income of every household which will increase cash in hand and improve living conditions,” he said.

Additionally, in keeping with its 2020 work programme, the Ministry has already started clearing lands and constructing access bridges in several new housing areas. However, while the Ministry continues to work on those measures, the Minister is reminding the public that there is a zero-tolerance approach to squatting. He also emphasised that the Ministry will continue to engage residents to relocate them where necessary and regularise areas where possible.