Housing Minister Randall Mitchell said on Tuesday that 190 Housing Development Corporation (HDC) units were vandalised between October 1, 2015 and September 30 this year. He told the Senate, the cost to repair these units is approximately $80 million. He also said out of these 190 units, 181 were illegally occupied.
The units, he said, were vandalised as a result of “remaining unoccupied for extended periods of time.” Mitchell said 1,200 HDC units were unoccupied when the People’s National Movement assumed office in September 2015. He said the HDC subsequently began a programme to “speed up the completion and repair where necessary” and distribute these units. He said the number of unoccupied units has been reduced to less than 200 and “these units will be distributed by the end of 2017.”
The minister said the type of vandalism included the removal of doors, windows or plumbing or “a combination of all.” Mitchell said it is possible that in the case of illegally occupied units “there would have been some vandalism on eviction.”
And in the case where illegal occupiers have children, the matters are dealt with by the HDC’s social unit in collaboration with the Social Development ministry. Mitchell explained the HDC’s security department does regular audits on units across the country. He said the unit works with the police to carry out evictions of illegal occupiers. Asked by temporary independent senator Pastor Clive Dottin about criminal gangs occupying HDC units, Mitchell replied, “There will come a time when the HDC will remove itself and it then becomes a police matter.”