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By Cheerieann Kalouniviti

SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, August 16) –More than 3,000 squatter families face eviction in areas across Fiji.

A report by the Department of Housing and Squatter Settlement has given a breakdown of more then ten areas that will have to make way for housing lots.

According to the agency’s head, Dharam Lingam, squatting has become a major problem in Fiji due to the lack of affordable housing.

"Squatters facing eviction are 700 families from the Samabula Muslim League Estate, 600 families from Jittu Estate, 40 families from the Pony Club area, 1,100 families from the Vatuwaqa area, 344 tenants from the Public Rental Board flats at Grantham, 600 tenants from the smaller settlements in Samabula, Nabua and Nasinu," he said.

He added people were forced into squatting and lived in appalling conditions with very bad shelter, no water supply, and at times no electricity and overcrowding.

However, the reports further explained that cabinet had approved a squatter development and resettlement policy.

"The policy provides for squatter upgrading in areas of concentrated squatter housing. Such areas are being designed as residential upgrading areas," he said.

Lingam said all the infrastructure and planning standards were made by the Ministry for Local Government, Housing and Squatter Settlement.

The report stated that there were 13,725 people squatting from all over Fiji and there are only 182 squatter settlements to cater for all these people.

"The statistics point to two things. Many poor people cannot afford proper housing and as a result families suffer from poor health, insecure tenure and an inability to progress. Secondly the squatter population is growing at a faster rate than the squatter resettlement programs.

Lingam said the 99-year leases were a common mechanism for making available crown and native land for development.

"Although at some point in the future the lease will expire, its renewal is virtually assured for residential developments," he said. The Minister for Local Government, Mataiasi Ragigia said that the pace of squatter settlement had accelerated since 2001. "Surveys in selected squatter and other informal housing areas in 2002 also suggest that these areas are rapidly growing and that housing conditions in these areas continue to be significantly worse than average," he said.


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