Deep Dive

Inside The Subdivisions

At a glance, the Wainibuku subdivision gives no indication that there are homes which have been built in the Housing Authority style. But in the subdivision, such homes, are outnumbered and overshadowed by the mansions that are there now.
18 Jul 2020 10:26
Inside The Subdivisions
A commercial property is being built along Wainibuku new subdivision in Nakasi, Nausori on July 15, 2020. Photo: Ronald Kumar

A recent valuation of a property at the Housing Authority Tacirua subdivision puts it at $1.8 million and a double story house in Wainibuku is being sold at $750,000.

Both these housing subdivisions boast houses which have been valued at more than half a million dollars, some even reaching the $2 million mark.

Preliminary investigations by the Housing Authority have also shown that households have come to own more than one Housing Authority lot.

The Tacirua lots were given out in 2015 while the Wainibuku lots were allocated in 2017.

In Tacirua, certain portions were marked as high-end lots, however, an analysis of the properties show more owners who have household incomes greater than $50,000.

This is the case where high-end properties are concerned, however, the high-end properties are limited.

According to Housing Authority guidelines, the first priority is given to households earning below $50,000 and to first home buyers.

People/households with existing properties are not considered. And all households earning more than $50,000 need ministerial approval.

Nevertheless, people with properties in other places have been given Housing Authority leases.

According to Housing Authority chief executive officer, Robert Sen, the above mentioned could have happened either as a result of the applicants not being honest or corruption within the authority.

He said they are aware of cases where people have walked into the office and acquired land while some applicants are still on the waiting list.

The troubled lots

In Wainibuku, a house is being sold at $750,000. Housing Authority sold the land for $40,000, and the owner of the lot declared that his household income was $13,800.

According to lending institutions, that salary would not successfully qualify the owner with enough loan to build a house so grand that it’s resale value was $750,000.

According to calculations from lending institutions, households with an income of $50,000 could be looking at a maximum loan of somewhere around $300,000.

Permanent secretary for Housing Sanjeeva Perera said on the income declared by the person there was no possibility of securing a loan that would match the value of the home.

He said these are the questions that need to be answered.

It has also been confirmed by the Ministry of Housing that unlike the Tacirua subdivision, there were no high-end lots in Wainibuku.

At a glance, the Wainibuku subdivision gives no indication that there are homes which have been built in the Housing Authority style. But in the subdivision, such homes, are outnumbered and overshadowed by the mansions that are there now.

Also discovered in Wainibuku was an owner of a home who stayed elsewhere in his other property, while he rented out the home which he built on land he was allotted by the Housing Authority.

Mr Perera said it was possible to make investment properties, but not at the scale of the mansions that can be found in the Nausori suburb.

There is also a large warehouse and office space in the residential subdivision. Mr Perera said he has queried this with the Housing Authority and is awaiting a response.

Warehouse owner Bhagat Lal said this was a commercial property built on a commercial lot given by the Housing Authority.

The resale problem

Authority boss, Mr Sen, agreed that there is also an issue of people selling allotted land.

He said eligible applicants are allotted land but they end up selling it. He said land someone has paid up to $50,000 for is being sold for as much as $150,000 without any development.

Mr Sen said there were a number of people who had done this and they were later able to acquire another lot.

He said once a person had been given a lot he or she cannot be given another lot by the Housing Authority. He said this issue could be controlled by policies which would ensure the reselling of land is stopped for a certain period.

Housing permanent secretary Mr Perera said a spin-off effect is the manipulation of market prices by homeowners and real estate companies.

Two-bedroom flats are up for rent between $800 to $1200 a month in Wainibuku and Tacirua. Properties with a single house are being sold between $400,000 and $500,000 while properties with additional flats guaranteeing rental income can fetch from anywhere between half a million to over a million dollars.

Mr Perera said this was an area which would be looked at, as well.

A property under construction at Wainibuku new subdivision in Nakasi, Nausori on July 15, 2020. Photo: Ronald Kumar

A property under construction at Wainibuku new subdivision in Nakasi, Nausori on July 15, 2020. Photo: Ronald Kumar

The waiting list

Avneit Nand satisfied the selection criteria of the Housing Authority and made his first application in 2012. He did not get a reply from the Housing Authority and applied again in 2015.

He is still yet to receive any response.

Praneel Sharma had first applied in 2003 and then again in 2012. In 2017, he discovered that some relatives and friends had put in fresh applications and were given lots.

He said he went to the Housing Authority and after he vocally raised the matter, he was given a lot within a week.

The audit and public consultations

The report which the Office of the Auditor-General will prepare after a scrutiny of the applications made in the last decade and public consultations would see unscrupulous applicants and corrupt staff taken to task.

What this will not do is give land to people who have applied in the past and are waiting. The Ministry of Housing will also not be displacing people who have already acquired land.

Instead, policies which are more accountable and transparent will be put in place to allow for eligible people to get lots and put an end to the corruption that has affected the housing institution.

These policies will also hold the applicants accountable.

The new Housing Authority board chairperson, Lorraine Seeto, said: “It takes two to tango.”

Edited by Jonathan Bryce

Feedbackshalveen.chand@fijisun.com.fj


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