Minister of Housing, Lands and Maintenance, Dwight Sutherland has given property owners notice that Government is exploring its options about what can legally be done to “unlock” the majority of the
35 000 unoccupied properties and vacant lots across the country.
Speaking on the Appropriations Bill, 2022 in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, Sutherland suggested that as Government seeks to build 10 000 houses in five years, there are housing opportunities among the 15 000 unoccupied properties that have been identified in addition to the 20 000 vacant lots, many of which he said are located in developed areas where there is access to roads and water infrastructure.
Sutherland said that he has begun discussions with staff at his ministry regarding what can be done to unlock at least 80 per cent of the unoccupied properties and vacant lots.
“What part of the legislation can we discuss with the homeowners to see how we can utilize their properties? Some of these properties, I can understand, have been left for over 20, 25 years….Some properties that we can classify as derelict. And if you read into this, you will see that land tax arrears might be more for some of these properties, than the market value of some of these properties.
“So we have to work with the homeowners whom I know are waiting for us to create that policy within Cabinet and then go to some of these homeowners to unlock the potential for homeownership in this country, utilizing those good workers at the National Housing Corporation and the private sector entities who have done well in this country to come forward and agree and win bids to engage in private/public partnerships to help us build out the 10 000 houses in this country,” Sutherland said.
The minister said he believes that once Government creates the policy framework that is likely to lead to what he has described as a “win-win situation for land and property owners”, some of the unoccupied properties can be put to use.
However, Sutherland said that Government does not intend to use the Land Acquisition Act to take away persons’ properties.
“We are going to give them the opportunity to pay down some of their arrears in some form of arrangement. I don’t know, it could be leasehold. I don’t know if the Land Acquisition Act caters to a leasehold. But these are some of the things that we have to sit down as a Government and discuss so we can unlock the potential for housing within these 35 000 lots that I have so aptly articulated and focused on this afternoon,” he said.