Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Major General (Ret'd) Edmund Dillon.

Squatters in this country have moved one step closer to having their situation regularised, following the launch of Government’s Tenancy Policy, today.

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, in collaboration with the Land Settlement Agency and the Office of the Commissioner of State Lands, officially launched the Tenancy Policy, today, at the Ministry’s Head Office on South Quay, Port of Spain.

The Policy was approved by Cabinet in February of this year.

According to a news release issued by the Ministry, the Policy seeks to provide security of tenure for certain categories of squatters/occupants of state lands in designated areas cited in the State Land (Regularisation of Tenure) Act 25 of 1998, as well land settlement areas prior to June 14 2014, when aerial photographic surveys were conducted.

The ministry says this will allow the Land Settlement Agency to verify squatters’ claims to occupation during this period.

Upon the advice of the LSA, the Commissioner of State Lands, through the powers vested under Section 6(2) of the State Lands Act, Chapter 57:01, can then grant fixed term or year-to-year Tenancy Agreements to eligible occupants who are non-CoC (Certificates of Comfort) holders in designated and land settlement areas. Subsequently, the Land Settlement Agency can then grant Statutory Leases for a term of thirty years and Deeds of Lease for a term of 199 years.

Housing Minister Major General (Ret’d) Edmund Dillon stated that while the Tenancy Policy is intended to provide housing solutions that are aimed at improving the living conditions and circumstances of low to lower middle-income families, it is not a “free ride”.

“I wish to caution citizens that this is not a free card for persons to ‘grab lands’ for the purpose of squatting.  Squatting is still illegal, and this is not an invitation for citizens to think that they can occupy State Lands,” he warned.

He added: “I wish to assure the national community that the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development remains committed to ensuring that there is equity and transparency in its policies governing the public housing sector, while also continuing to re-assess the needs of our client base and stakeholders, in order to provide solutions that are sustainable, accessible and affordable.”