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Cuffie: Squatters being ‘sold’ cemetery lands
Communications Minister Maxie Cuffie says while the Government recognises the critical and important role housing development plays in stimulating the economy, squatting is a problem every administration face. He was speaking at a meeting with the Moonan Road Land Settlement Agency (LSA) Settlement Group at Moonan Road, Wallerfield, on Saturday.
Also present were the CEO of The Land Settlement Agency (LSA) Hazar Hosein and officials from the Ministry of Community Development, Culture and the Arts and Tunapuna/Piarco Regional Corporation.
Just last week, the T&T Guardian highlighted several areas in Matura and Valencia where squatters have moved in and began to erect homes within the last eight months. Some have even constructed houses and put them up for sale.
In a few sites in Sangre Grande, Valencia and Matura more than 120 new squatters have emerged in the last eight months, State officials said. There are approximately 20 sites on which new squatters have encroached. In 2010, former head of the LSA, Dr Allen Sammy, had estimated the squatting population in T&T to be 200,000.
Of the 200,000 Sammy stated around 50,000 families resided on state lands. The Government proposes to stimulate the economy by ramping up the construction of low-income houses under private/public partnership. Rural and Local Government Minister Franklin Khan said recently that the State intends to confront the issue of illegal squatting.
“I recognise having been here several times that a number of people are in the same position where they have bought lands on squatting lands from people who have no authority to sell the land,” Cuffie told his audience.
“I’ve seen cases where land that was cemetery lands was sold, land allocated for recreation grounds and even lands carded for schools and play parks sold by unscrupulous individuals who take advantage of the unsuspecting public. This has led to tremendous problems for every administration who’ve had to deal with it,” he added. He said he intended to meet with Housing Minister Marlene McDonald to look at areas for possible sources for housing construction.
Cuffie told the audience their situation was similar to residents in Las Lomas community who had bought mainly squatter lands. He said they bought the land, built houses and, in some cases, they were “fantastic” houses but the land was not owned by the people who sold it to them.
Cuffie said people encountered problems in terms of getting title to the land, roads, water and electricity. The MP for La Horquetta/Talparo related an incident when he was in his constituency office in Talparo last Thursday.
Cuffie said a young man came with his wife and young daughter who had bought a piece of land for $25,000 from someone just across the road in Valencia, but it was in a squatting community. He said, for some reason, the man expected that after buying the land he would be able to get a loan and build a home.
Cuffie said now the man was in serious financial difficulty as a result of making such a bad investment. Cuffie added that he had met one of the men who sold land to some of the people in the audience and, as far as the man was concerned, he was performing a service and there were people willing to accept his service.