Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
More than a decade after some homeowners in Seaview Gardens finished paying mortgages for the houses they received in 1983, they are unable to sell or to get major loans to make major improvements, as they have no titles for the houses.
The homeowners, many of whom are close to retirement age, are frustrated after receiving no help to secure the titles nearly 30 years after some of them were handed keys to the houses.
One homeowner told The Sunday Gleaner that he is not only worried about the absence of titles and his inability to access home-improvement loans, but is petrified that with eight years to go before he reaches retirement age, he will not be able to access a mortgage.
"If the problem is not sorted out in the next three years, I will be in problems if I get a loan to improve the house. Can you imagine how much I will be required to pay back per month," said Constantine Douglas, a disgruntled homeowner.
He has lived in Seaview Gardens for the last 29 years and is upset that although the scheme was Government constructed the National Housing Trust (NHT) will not offer home-improvement loans unless the owners have their titles.
That position is similar with other financial institutions, as the titles for the houses are held as security until the loans or mortgages are fully discharged.
With selling or major improvement not an option, residents have instead found themselves "in a straitjacket" as they are unable to "seven or eleven," Douglas declared recently.
The residents charge that the problem is seemingly insurmountable, as six ministers of housing have been installed since the construction of the scheme, which started under the Michael Manley administration of the 1970s.
The scheme was born when the late Anthony Spaulding was the minister of housing and continued under ministers O.D. Ramtallie, Bruce Golding, Easton Douglas, Robert Pickersgill and Horace Chang.
The housing portfolio is now in the hands of Dr Omar Davies with the minister without portfolio in the ministry Dr Morais Guy, having day-to-day responsibility.
The Sunday Gleaner has learnt that the lands were acquired by the Government using the compulsory Land Acquisition Act but recent efforts to locate the original owners have been unsuccessful.
For Rohan Riley, sorting out the titles issue cannot be done soon enough.
"I have been living there for 25 years, and finished paying my mortgage from 2010. I would really like to do some improvement to the house but I can't do anything without the title," Riley told The Sunday Gleaner.
Last week, Guy told our news team that if the Government was the owner of the land the titles should be available.
"I cannot see what legal impediment that would prevent the homeowners from getting their titles," said Guy.
"Unless there is something that we don't know. But I will see what I can find out relating to this specific matter," Guy added.
According to Guy, the Government is in possession of nearly 9,000 titles for homeowners dating back to the 1960s and 70s where small sums are outstanding to complete the payments.
He said the ministry has proposed that the titles be handed over to the owners with the understanding that the properties will be developed.
Attorney-at-law Wentworth Charles agreed with Guy that there should not be an issue if the Government owns the land.
"Unless there is some objection from the person or persons from whom it was compulsory acquired or other issues that have not been resolved, such as a caveat been placed on the title, the homeowners should get their titles," said Charles.
"Just since week I dealt with an individual with titling issues from the Seaview community. I spoke to someone at the ministry of housing in their legal department, but I can't recall what was the explanation," Charles told The Sunday Gleaner.
"It could not be something in law, because under the Act you can acquire property. If you (homeowner) had a mortgage, it means that there was a title on which a mortgage was registered.
"Or maybe what was done, was that the owners were issued with a title paper saying this lot was allotted to you at a cost of x amount for x number of years," Charles surmised.