Housing and Urban Development Minister Randall Mitchell yesterday took Opposition MP Dr Fuad Khan to task for encouraging squatting and misrepresenting the practices of the Housing Development Corporation (HDC) with respect to the allocation of houses.
Khan’s statements were carried in a video on social media, which was later circulated via Facebook. In a statement from the ministry’s Corporate Communications Division, Mitchell said it was inappropriate for Khan, a seasoned member of Parliament, to encourage citizens to engage in the illegal practice of squatting and to dangerously build housing structures alongside watercourses “because nobody doing you nothing.”
“I respectfully suggest that Dr Khan, as a member of Parliament, should employ his voice towards the creation of laws and or policy to eradicate unlawful behaviour by citizens and create an enabling environment where those seeking affordable shelter can be afforded opportunities without resorting to illegal behaviour.”
Mitchell claimed the former health minister and San Juan/Barataria MP, in the video, also “irresponsibly advises” the population that “it is better to make plenty children, sleep under a step or go on a river bank and build a house, call in the media, let everybody feel sorry for you and then you will get an HDC house even though you were given before and never paid for it.”
Khan, he claimed, also made a clarion call stating, “Everyone who has applied to the HDC and have not gotten a house to set up a house on the river bank, have a couple of children, call in the media and show how destitute you are.”
Mitchell said Khan’s motivation for his statements appeared to have been driven by a story which appeared in a daily newspaper article on January 18 with the title, Mom, Children get HDC Apartment.
The minister claimed the headline was erroneous. “That story referred to a mother and her children who had been sleeping under a staircase at an HDC housing development. However, contrary to that published story, that family did not receive an HDC housing unit, but instead benefited from the state’s social safety net through the timely intervention by the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services and the provision of the Rental Assistance Grant and other grants to ensure that the family gets back onto its feet.” The minister thanked Social Development and Family Services Minister Cherrie-Ann-Crichlow-Cockburn and the case workers from both the Ministries of Housing and Social Development for their close collaboration on cases concerning shelter and other matters affecting the poor and vulnerable in the society.
Khan could not be reached for comment.