July 27, 2011
The Ministry of Housing notes with interest the statements made recently by the Deputy Leader of the Progressive Liberal Party Mr. Philip “Brave” Davis, regarding the squatter issue, many of which appear to be contradictory.
The truth of the matter is that the law already gives Bahamian squatters the right to obtain title to the lots they are squatting on, provided they meet certain criteria as was done in Grand Bahama, Abaco, Andros, Exuma, here in New Providence, and in fact in all of the islands of The Bahamas. We are therefore operating completely within the confines of the law.
The reality is that there are many indigenous Bahamians who are squatting on both government and private land. Pride Estates, Dignity Gardens and the former Leonard Sugarman Estates in Fox Hill are prime examples of this. In Leonard Sugarman in particular, even commercial buildings have been constructed on property owned by the Ministry of Housing. Only recently were we able to obtain a Court Order to restrain further construction, and the individual concerned will be required to purchase the land at commercial rates, or the buildings will become the Government’s property.
In this case, the MP for Fox Hill supports the Ministry’s plans, and has in fact petitioned the Ministry to conclude the regularization of all of his constituents squatting on Housing’s land in this subdivision.
While we do not condone squatting, there are many middle income Bahamians including senior citizens, civil servants, police officers, reverends, and straw vendors, squatting on Housing land, in houses which are in most instances larger than government homes. Should all of these persons’ houses and buildings be demolished and they and their children placed on the streets, or should the Government find a way to afford those persons the opportunity to purchase the land they are living on, some for generations?
If the latter is the case, shouldn’t the same purchase policy be applied to those poor Bahamians living in squalor – provided they are able to upgrade their houses, or construct new houses, in keeping with the Building Code ? The Ministry of Housing is simply activating an existing Government policy in seeking to put in place a humane, permanent solution to the squatter problem on Housing land.
Unfortunately, the Progressive Liberal Party has sought to capitalize on the fact that the term “squatter” has become synonymous with “illegal immigrant” resulting in this subject becoming very emotive. The squatter issue, however, is not as “black and white” as the Opposition would like you to believe, and there are many considerations which come into play.
Mr. Davis is very much aware of this and the fact that there is absolutely no difference between the UBP, PLP and FNM policies as they relate to the treatment of squatters. As the Ministry of Housing has continued to state, it was the Progressive Liberal Party Government which began the regularization of squatters, on Housing land, as far back as the Nassau Village Subdivision in the 1980s.
Additionally, it was the same government under the leadership of former Minister of Housing, Mr. Neville Wisdom, which established a price of $17,000.00 per lot. We decided to continue with that price, but to extrapolate a square foot price of $3.40 per sq. ft., which establishes equity between lots of varying sizes.
It has been alleged that the Ministry of Housing is “giving away “ land to persons squatting, by charging what is a very low rate, in comparison with rates charged to our homeowners. This is untrue, as the $3.40 a sq. ft. rate is generally more costly than the land price attached to each homeowner in government subdivisions.
In reality, the average cost of the land and infrastructure in our subdivisions for each homeowner for a 50 X 100 lot, where there is no sewer system, is only around $5,000.00.
Regarding the Mackey Yard matter, this subdivision will consist of 52 lots, not 250, as erroneously reported over and over, despite our many pronouncements on this. The majority of persons on this land, we believe, are illegal immigrants, and we expect them, and everyone else, to move shortly. The Bahamians who can afford to purchase the land at the offered price will be able to return. If not, then the property will be sold to persons from Housing’s list.
Very shortly, the Ministry of Housing will air a documentary on the squatter issue, which will hopefully allow persons to get a full understanding of the complexity of this problem, and will show how our efforts have yielded substantial results thus far. I invite all of you to tune in.