SQUATTERS living along the route of the proposed highway to Point Fortin can now become legal homeowners after being given State lands on which they can build properties.
Yesterday, 71 people received a licence to occupy from the Government at a function at Paria Suites Conference Centre, La Romaine.
Attending the ceremony were Minister of Works and Infrastructure Dr Surujrattan Rambachan, Minister in the Works Ministry Stacy Roopnarine and Minister of Land and Marine Resources Jairam Seemungal.
The location of those developed lands is at Picton Settlement, Diamond Village. The land will be leased for 30 years and people will have the option of renewing the contract for another 30 years.
Rambachan said the value of one lot of land was approximately $200,000, which could increase to up to $600,000 in the next few years.
But people were only paying the State $50,000 over a period of 30 years.
Seemungal told recipients: “You will have security of tenure with your land. You could actually take your deed and go to the bank and receive loans to upgrade your facilities and even to build houses as well.”
A department was set up at the Land Settlement Agency (LSA) to assist those building their home for the first time with technical expertise, he said.
He advised these people to use the land wisely and not to sell it.
Rambachan said there was a model plan for a two-bedroom house and they could apply for a loan to build, at a two-per cent increase from Trinidad and Tobago Mortgage Finance (TTMF) if they desired.
Seemungal, speaking to reporters afterward, said Cabinet recently approved the allocation of 162 residents affected by the highway’s route. He said some squatters were not affected by the route and others moved out before the allocation process began.
He said within the next couple of months, another ceremony would be held to distribute the remaining leases.
Last year, the Government distributed 42 lots to individuals. Recipients were fortunate to get lots next to family members and neighbours with whom they were familiar. There were mixed reactions from them.
Brigmohan Roopnarine, 69, who lives at Salt Mine Trace. Fyzabad, said: “I feel very good and really happy when they told me about the highway. I was scared that I would have nowhere to go, but we are grateful we have somewhere to live.”
Jassodra Singh, 57, who lives at St Mary’s Village, Oropouche, said she has been living there for 20 years. “It is uncomfortable and heartbreaking. At this age to move is very hard, but we came to accept it for the highway,” she said.