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Housing Minister Edmund Dillon presents a Certificate of Comfort to a resident of enterprise Chaguanas during the CoC distribution ceremony at the New Jerusalem Church of Jesus Christ Southern Main Road, Enterprise Chaguanas yesterday.

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Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley says laws are now in place to discourage squatting rather than encourage it across the country. He made the comment yesterday even as he distributed certificates of comfort to 27 Enterprise, Chaguanas residents yesterday.

“The Parliament had passed the requisite law not to encourage squatting but to limit squatting and that is what we heard the Minister (Rambharat) at pains to point out, that a certificate of comfort is not a facility available to every boldface person who want to squat on a piece of land,” he said during the Land Settlement Agency COC distribution at the New Jerusalem Church Of Jesus Christ.

“It is a recognition of those who were there before and the Parliament put a cutoff date applying to those persons, saying OK we accept that you are here but it mustn’t continue indefinitely for new ones to grow in that way.”

The Prime Minister made the warning as he acknowledged there are some people who will be attempting to manipulate their status to earn the CoCs from the Government.

“If you came after, like last week or the month before, you can go on TV as much as you like and make misrepresentation as much as you like, the law does not cover you. Certificate of Comfort is not a license to squat all over the place, it is a part of a national programme of development and raising of persons who by a particular date and an earlier time had been identified for regularisation,” he said.

Making reference to the situation in Enterprise, Rowley admitted that squatting situation had been a by-product of the large demand for housing across the country. As such, he said getting squatters to buy-in to a regularisation programme could also help alleviate some of that strain.

“The drone picture you see here, that section you are seeing there is one of the most densely populated areas in Trinidad and Tobago. Almost 100 per cent occupied by good quality housing, but it requires a completion of the process,” he said.

Housing Minister Edmund Dillon also acknowledged that squatting had been a growing problem in the country with the number of squatters tripling in this country since 1998. He confirmed that squatting had been most significant in Sangre Grande and his home constituency of Point Fortin.

A certificate of comfort grants the holder protection from eviction from state-owned land or guarantee of relocation to an allocated lot by the state. It also serves as the first step towards securing a statutory lease, should the holder make the agreed payments to the state. After making the required payments over a certain period, the holder can eventually earn a deed of the lease which would secure their tenancy.