NEWS

140 Tenants Of Rawai Flats Issued Eviction Notice, No Longer Eligible To Occupy Flats

At a glance, the property or possessions of some PRB tenants in Raiwai indicate that they have clearly crossed the eligibility threshold. The carpark of the $18.1 million flats is filled with cars that can only be afforded by families with a combined income of more than $25,000 per family.
19 Sep 2019 12:09
140 Tenants Of Rawai Flats Issued Eviction Notice, No Longer Eligible To Occupy Flats
Some of the Public Rental Board flats at Nairai Road, Raiwai, in Suva. Photo: Ronald Kumar

The Public Rental Board (PRB) has issued 140 eviction notices to families who are tenants at the Raiwai flats in Suva.

The families are no longer eligible to occupy the flats.

They were found to be earning more than the income ceiling of $25,000 per annum or $481 weekly.

PRB acting general manager Patrick Veu said they had identified families that were in this situation through their due diligence.

PRB issued notices and gave families two months to vacate the premises. Some tenants have already vacated while others are still there.

At a glance, the property or possessions of some PRB tenants in Raiwai indicate that they have clearly crossed the eligibility threshold. The carpark of the $18.1 million flats is filled with cars that can only be afforded by families with a combined income of more than $25,000 per family.

“We have sent notices to all those families that we have identified in the system whose salaries are, over

Families issued eviction notices because they are no longer eligible for PRB housing tenancy.

the period, have exceeded the income ceiling,” Mr Veu said.

“For Raiwai, it’s $481 a week max, this is the combined income for the family and for the other estates is $317 a week. We have based this on the $16,500 per annum salary which we believe is the poverty line.”

Mr Veu said the PRB team had only now been able to identify those who had surpassed the income threshold.

He said when applications were received after the completion of the 210 flats at Raiwai, PRB treated each application as true.

“They came in with the eligibility, they were within the range but some of them have passed that range. Their children may have employment and some may have been promoted,” he said.

“We are talking with the Housing Authority to qualify them for homeownership. The last things for us to do is put someone on the streets. Some have taken heed of the notices and moved out. Some are finding difficulty in getting accommodation.”

Mr Veu said there could have been instances where people did not declare their true income and properties.

“What we are doing now is, for the new ones, we are asking them to declare. They make a statutory declaration,” he said

“We do a search. Every tenant that comes in, we do a search, a title search, maybe the names are changed or listed under someone’s name, but we do a title search. If they have an alternative accommodation within the vicinity then we cannot help them.

“We have assisted some who have been on work assignments, from here to the west. In some cases, they may have a property in Suva but are on a work assignment in the west, we do provide the assistance.”

A closer look

Fiji Sun spoke to tenants at the Raiwai flats who say flash cars reflect an expensive lifestyle.

Muniamma Theresa, 78, and her husband occupy a one-bedroom flat paying $429 a month.

She said her daughter, who lives overseas, applied for their flat.

“My personal view is that some people here are earning more than they say. Look at the cars they are driving. And I also think my rent is too high,” she said.

Another tenant who identified himself only as Ratu said he moved into the flats in 2016. He said his wife was the one employed and they paid $450 a month as rent for their two-bedroom space.

He said he was unaware of notices being given to people to vacate.

Port worker, Kelemedi Sigatale, 55, had made an application seven years ago and was only given a flat six months ago. He pays $200 a month for his one-bedroom flat.

“I work on the docks. Life is a struggle. I wish I could say that for a few people I have noticed staying here,” he said.

“The cars, the clothes and the lifestyle should explain it. I am wondering how they have even been given a place here to stay.

“I know some of these people personally. I can tell you that some own homes in other places.”

Brian Natera, a Police officer and his wife a dental hygienist, moved to Raiwai in 2014. Mr Natera said he was the one who had applied for the flat.

Another resident who chose to vacate her flat before the notice was given, said she moved as she had a house out of Suva and did earn more than the ceiling.

She said there were others who had bought houses but remain in the flats because their homes were on rent, which paid for the loans. She also said people living at the flats owned new cars.

Legal woes

Mr Veu said some tenants moved out willingly while others were in the process of moving. He said the last thing they wanted was a legal battle over the eviction as a court order would cost PRB, $2000 per case.

“It will be costly to take them to court if they don’t really move out. We may have to go through the legal system, which may be quite expensive, but we are looking at options,” he said.

“Maybe we can get a ruling, which can be applied to everybody rather than taking individuals to court.

“I hope people (the tenants given notices) will understand our situation.”

The Raiwai flats

The initial low-cost housing flats in Raiwai were demolished in 2009 to give rise to the new 210 flats in Nairai Road.

The old flats were declared unsafe, people living there had rental arrears and it was overcrowded.

The new $18.1 million flats were opened in September by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama. The project was made possible through a loan from the Export and Import Bank of China.

There are 110 one-bedroom flats and 100 two-bedroom flats.

According to PRB, there are 56 pending application mostly for the two-bedroom flats. Seventy-two applications were put aside after applicants failed to follow up after a month.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

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