“This injustice has to stop. I am putting those engaged in the practice of subletting on notice that we are going to treat with these matters very firmly.”
That was the warning from Housing Minister Randall Mitchell last week as he announced the State’s stricter policy when it comes to beneficiaries who profiteer off Housing Development Corporation (HDC) allocations.
According to Mitchell, there have been consistent reports of people renting out properties at much higher rates than the subsidised sums charged by the HDC.
This, in the face of legal terms and conditions which ban such a practice.
The minister’s warning is all well and good. But it does not go far enough.
To put things in perspective.
There are approximately 150,000 citizens on the waiting list for a home from the HDC and the number daily grows.
At the same time, there is an overall shortage of affordable housing.
The State’s efforts to jump-start construction will take years to make an impact. And even then, it is only likely to make a dent in the problem, given the sheer numbers.
A person who is lucky enough to get an HDC home today and who then gives up that home engages in exploitation in its highest form.
Not only does such a person violate the letter and spirit of the law by using false pretences to fraudulently obtain property, that person breaches the social contract, depriving someone else of the chance to get a roof over their head.
The State must do far more than “consider” terminating its relationship with such beneficiaries and prioritising the eventual occupants. It must quash such arrangements in their entirety.
After all, people should not be encouraged to enter corrupt arrangements.
Mitchell has not disclosed the full extent of the problem, but one case alone would be bad enough given the chronic housing shortage in the country and tougher economic times.
While the State is right to go after the people who are abusing the system, the HDC must also take responsibility for the development of this practice.
It needs to do a better job liaising with financial intelligence agencies so as to detect beneficiaries who do not meet low or middle-income criteria or who suddenly enrich themselves using HDC property.
The State needs to shut the door on this grossly unfair practice once and for all.