NEWS

Land Scam Under Probe

“The idea behind the setting up of Housing Authority was to provide low income earners the opportunity to own homes. But, people were taking unfair advantage of it,” Mrs Kumar said.
31 Jan 2019 10:58
Land Scam Under Probe
Many properties are on sale by Real Estate agents along Housing Authority developed Tacirua Height Stage 1 and 2. Photo: Ronald Kumar

A major effort to close off loopholes in the Housing Authority of Fiji’s policies is currently being undertaken by the Minister for Housing and Community Development, Premila Kumar.

Mrs Kumar has acknowledged that a number of low income earners had found loopholes within their regulations to benefit from the subsidised lots that the Housing Authority sold to them.

This included:

  • Despite owning homes previously, people allegedly lied on their declaration that they do not own homes and went onto purchase subsidised land through the Housing Authority;
  • Some living in squatter settlements allegedly acquired the Housing Authority lots, only to sell it off to make a huge profit, while they continued to reside in squatter areas, waiting for Government to regularise squatters and give them land at next to no cost;
  • Land being bought at subsidised rates are allegedly being sold off at a much higher rate to make a massive profit, which also spoils the housing market in the country; and
  • Applicants who really need the lots are left at a disadvantage and have had their applications sitting with the Housing Authority for more than 12 years now;

The minister was responding to queries from the Fiji Sun after this newspaper noted the high number of housing authority lots being put up for sale by the lessees within two years of their purchase.

“The idea behind the setting up of Housing Authority was to provide low income earners the opportunity to own homes. But, people were taking unfair advantage of it,” Mrs Kumar said.

Now, she is looking at formulating policies, which will make all this harder to do.

She explained that when the Tacirua Heights subdivision was done, it was done in two areas – one where land was leased at prime rate; the other where subsidised lots were leased to low-income earners. The money earned from leasing to higher income earners who used to subsidise the land was sold to low- income earners.

“When the next stage of lots will be developed for leasing, we are looking at putting in clauses that people will not be able to sell it to skewer the housing market,” Mrs Kumar said.

“They can sell it back to the Housing Authority or that a certain percentage of money from the sale to goes back to Housing Authority.

“There are people who are spoiling the housing markets. My job is to come up with strong policies to curb this. People have gone to the extent of signing false declarations and we have to ensure the relevant clauses are there and enforced if the need arises.”

The minister is also looking at starting a whistle-blower policy where people can inform authorities when those who buy Housing Authority lots do so without meeting the requirements.

Fiji Sun called a number of real estate agents who are selling the Housing Authority leased land with property who agreed that they have a number of properties for sale on Housing Authority lots. Most of these land lots hold a lease of 96 years.

The real estate agents also gave prices of the properties where the lots by Housing Authority were much more expensive compared to the lots registered under iTaukei Land Trust Board (TLTB).

For example, a three bedroom fully concrete house under TLTB costs as low as $130,000. When compared to a three bedroom fully concrete house under Housing Authority costs $275,000.

A gentleman who allegedly holds the lease for a Housing Authority lot is selling the lease of his land (without any property on it) for $330,000.

 

Their past plan:

Furthermore, the General Manager Finance and Administration of Housing Authority, Poasa Verevaka- bau, during the Housing Authority 2015 Annual Report presentation to the Standing Committee Social Affairs on Tuesday said they had started off with 500 lots per annum and they were accommodated to deliver 1000 fully serviced lots every year.

“And out that 1000 we expect 70 to 80 per cent to be allocated to low income earners. At the same time this is expected to be subsidised,” he said.

“We have managed to develop and sell off 786 lots in Tacirua Heights. In Wainibuku, Nasinu, we have 176 units for sale while in Nepani there are 608 lots for sale.

“In Matavolivoli in Nadi, it was handed over to the Fiji National Provident Fund (FNPF) and they are working on this project to develop the strata units.”

He also said they expected 224 units in Davuilevu and 110 units in Veikoba, Nasinu, to be developed.

 

Additional lots:

Nepani – 176 lots are ready for sale;

Davuilevu, Nausori – 574 lots for sale with about 53 per cent of work completed;

Tavakubu in Lautoka – 427 lots for sale with 45 percent of work completed; and

Koronisalusalu in Tavua – 119 lots for sale with 75 per cent completed.

Mr Verevakabu said the Housing Authority, with the Government, have encouraged the public and private sector investment to work together to provide safe and affordable housing and reduce the number of slums in Fiji.

Edited by Naisa Koroi

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj



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