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Selling lands they do not own! - Government tenants causing squatting

Published:Sunday | March 29, 2015 | 3:00 AM
Morais Guy

Some individuals holding certified leases to government property since the 1970's have been fingered as being responsible for the exponential growth in squatting occurring in several sections of the island.

The lease arrangements with many were obtained under the 1970s Project Land Lease arrangement - the agricultural push by former Prime Minister Michael Manley.

These arrangements were in the form of long-term up to 99-year leaseholds on Crown lands.

Dr Morais Guy, minister with responsibility for housing, said it has been discovered that many lessees have breached the leasing arrangement with the Government.

"Many have sublet or even sold sections of the properties to other individuals, and what you have are communities of squatters getting larger and larger each year," he told The Sunday Gleaner.

 

DECEASED LEASEHOLDERS

 

According to Guy, other family members of leaseholders moved on to the lands, and children and grandchildren of leaseholders were born on government-leased properties. To compound the problem, in many instances, the individuals holding the lease have died or they could not be located. The Government, he said, had no arrangement with many of the current occupiers of some lands.

"It made the work of Government difficult to try and bring some control to the situation. And let's be honest, when you have this kind of situation, it is almost impossible for it to be controlled. And, of course, politics is not blameless in the mix," said Guy.

One such property is the Land Lease property in Papine, St Andrew.

Guy said, as far as he was aware, parts of the property have been sublet or sold to unsuspecting individuals with whom the Government has no arrangement.

Substantial concrete structures have been erected on the property for which they have no titles. Only recently The Sunday Gleaner learnt that some occupiers of the property received letters telling them that Hope Gardens will be expanded and they should vacate the property.

At least one individual who received such a letter was unwilling to discuss the issue last week. It could not be ascertained which entity sent the letters, but Guy said he was not aware of any such letter.

The two main political parties have both created squatter communities over the years, by moving individuals to squat in marginal constituencies to shore up political majorities.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com