The Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government in Grenada has once again signaled its intention to allow squatters on state-owned lands to get legal title to their lots.
According to Minister of State in the Ministry of Agriculture, Senator Simon Stiell, consideration is being given into regularising of those lands in order to give the occupants a chance to live comfortably on these government-owned lands.
Sen. Stiell said that once the residents have legal title to the land that they live on this will provide them with an opportunity to upgrade themselves “in whatever form they please”.
Speaking to reporters at the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing held at the Ministerial Complex at the Botanical Gardens, the Junior Minister
noted that there are many persons who have settled illegally on government lands over the years and who cannot take out mortgages and access basic utilities, like water and electricity.
He said the NNP administration has agreed to start the regularisation of selected settlements beginning with Mt Horne in St Andrew.
“There are somewhere in the region of 50 residents there all without title. The process, which is starting with consultation with the residents looking at the cost of regularization. All of these lands have to be surveyed, planned deed generated, lands have to be valued but the objective of this is for government to regularize these settlements so those residents will have full legal ownership of the properties,” he told reporters.
Sen. Stiell sees the move by government as helping to bring some sort of empowerment to these residents.
“This is a significant act – it empowers people who have been title-less. As I said, this enables them to go to a bank, raise money to improve (the) quality of their residences, to feel that they now have full ownership, instead of having the stigma of saying that these are squatted areas …”, he said.
According to Sen. Stiell, the landowners can now boast of having “legal and just title to those lands” which can be regarded as “a powerful thing both from an economic perspective and also a social perspective”.
He admitted that some of the squatter areas in the country “are almost well developed now” and are now occupied by second and in some instances third generation of persons living in the original homes that were constructed on these state lands.
The Junior Minister identified a shortage of government surveyors as one of the drawback to getting the initiative started.
“…As is widely known, government has some significant resource constraints with regards to the availability of Government Surveyors so we will be entering into arrangements with Private Surveyors which will be at the cost of the residents, not at the cost of government”, he said.
“… So we are looking to a model where the cost of doing this (is for) the residents (to) bear their cost with regards to the legal component – the surveying of the land. Consideration (will) also have to be given in terms of the cost of the land,” he added.
Sen. Stiell pointed out that before the lands are given to the occupiers, they will first have to be valued, surveyed and the legal processes gone through in terms of coming up with the deeds.
Mt Rush and Frequente in St. George’s, which have sizable squatters have also been identified by government for regularization.