NEWS

‘Wheeling and Dealing’ Widespread in Informal Settlements

wheel and deal (phrase) : engage in commercial scheming, especially unscrupulously.
01 Feb 2019 10:47
‘Wheeling and Dealing’ Widespread in Informal Settlements
This $15,000 house with furniture is being sold at Wailea Settlement in Vatuwaqa, Suva, on January 31, 2019. Photo: Simione Haranavanua.

People living illegally in informal settlements have gone to the extent of renting out rooms or extending their houses to accommodate tenants.

A Fiji Sun team visited seven of these informal settlements in the Suva-Nausori corridor yesterday.

These were the revelations:

Jittu Estate

A one-bedroom flat was being rented out for $200 a month. Water and electricity bills were excluded and the tenants were required to pay a bond of $100. The Raiwaqa settlement is a prime attraction for accommodation seekers because of its easy accessibility to Damodar City, the University of the South Pacific and Suva City.

However, this comes with disastrous consequences. Robbery and house break-ins are rife in this area. But the demand continues to surge within Jittu Estate for house rentals.

Jittu Estate in Raiwaqa, Suva. Photo: Simione Haravanua

Jittu Estate in Raiwaqa, Suva. Photo: Simione Haravanua

Nanuku Settlement

Rooms were rented out for as low as $150 a month. Another person living in that area said squatters were willing to rent out a room in their houses, but tenants would have to bear the risk of theft. Despite the harsh reality, the Vatuwaqa location is quite popular with low-income earners and university students.

Wailea Settlement

To rent one bedroom at Wailea costs about $100 a month. While at Wailea, the team came across a poorly-kept house that would otherwise be considered unliveable, being put up for sale at $15,000.

This $15,000 house with furniture is being sold at Wailea Settlement in Vatuwaqa, Suva, on January 31, 2019. Photo: Simione Haranavanua.

This $15,000 house with furniture is being sold at Wailea Settlement in Vatuwaqa, Suva, on January 31, 2019. Photo: Simione Haranavanua.

Muslim League Estate, Nabua

The cost of renting a room here fell within the range of $120-$160. Despite the large number of houses for rent, there were none available because of the high demand and interest.

Caubati, Cunningham and Khalsa Road

Squatters living in these areas had a better standard of housing. Based on analysis by the team, it can be said that families had decent housing and even had vehicles.

It was also revealed that squatters have been selling their houses without any paperwork. In one instance, a house was recently sold for $25,000 to the third owner, but the electricity and water bills still go to the first owner. The change in the name of the bill holder is not done to avoid any detection that ownership of the house changed.

Minister for Housing and Community Development Premila Kumar said occupying informal settlements was illegal to begin with and the revelation that squatters were engaging in illegal activities by renting out their homes was very worrying.

“Firstly, the squatters occupy the land illegally and then they rent it out to make money out of it,” she said.

Mrs Kumar warned that those squatters who had the means to buy land leases and settle down will be caught and they should not think that Government will hand them leases without background checks.

“Squatters are living there, but for them to get that piece of land, financial assessment will be done, financial background, their affordability and whether they own a property elsewhere will be checked,” she said.

“It doesn’t mean that a squatter is occupying the piece of land that they will get it.”

The minister said squatters give their rooms or houses for rent and when the land was being subdivided by the Government, tenants demanded that the piece of land be theirs.

“There are a lot of fights going on within that squatter settlement because they all feel they are the owners of that land,” Mrs Kumar said.

“The squatters are fighting and they delay the process of regularisation because there is no agreement on certain issues. So that is causing further problems for the Government to fully complete the project within the time frame.”

 

Homes at Khalsa Rd, Nasinu. Photo: Sheenam Chandra

Homes at Khalsa Rd, Nasinu. Photo: Sheenam Chandra

 

Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission chief executive officer Joel Abraham said consumers renting or buying houses in informal settlements were deprived of any redress mechanism that they might have.

“The house is not built properly, the health checks might not have been done and if these houses are sold or rented, the occupier becomes an illegal resident and the consumer has no redress mechanism to seek any form of claim,” he said.

“Consumers have a right to be protected from products that are harmful to their life and health.

“We understand that people are in need of a house, but there are various mechanisms put up for low-cost housing options, as well as rural housing, provision of land, incentives put out for development of iTaukei land to increase the availability of land.”

Mr Abraham raised concerns that people in the urban and semi-urban areas were taking advantage of low-income families and other Government policies.

“They know Government is trying to locate squatters so they use it to convince their families to rent or buy homes in squatter settlements in the misconception that when the Government subdivides land, they will become entitled to the same piece of land,” he said.

“FCCC will take action against the perpetrators and we will definitely investigate and charge whoever is at fault.”

Edited by Epineri Vula

Feedbacksheenam.chandra@fijisun.com.fj and neelam.prasad@fijisun.com.fj



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