Large number of Bahamian squatters on New Providence
A common cry among Bahamians remains the massive number of undocumented Haitians who build homes illegally on government land. But many residents may not realize that there are hundreds of Bahamians squatting on Crown land as well.
In fact, a deeper look into the squatter situation in New Providence would reveal that there may be nearly as many Bahamians who squat as there are illegal immigrants across The Bahamas, Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Housing Brensil Rolle said.
“You would be amazed [by the number of Bahamian squatters]. I was totally shocked when I came to the Ministry of Housing,” Rolle told The Guardian in a recent interview.
The Guardian went on a tour of one such area where scores of Bahamians are squatting on Crown land. It’s a community just off Fire Trail Road – an area notorious for squatting.
Bahamians have erected houses, apartments and even businesses on the land. Rolle pointed out several of the homes, adding that the government never received a penny for the land.
The government is currently in the process of trying to negotiate with squatters to buy the land on which they have built.
“There’s nothing we can do,” said Rolle. “Now we have to get them to pay for the land.”
There are 19 such Bahamian homes in that particular area.
The squatters live just across the street from a government subdivision. Some even live next to government-built homes.
“It is a massive problem and a large number of Bahamians squat on government land. A large number of Bahamians squat in areas we call shanty towns as well, and we want to be able to improve their circumstances,” Rolle said.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham acknowledged the problem last week. He was speaking during the renaming of Mackey Yard, which was primarily the home of Haitian squatters before a fire destroyed most of the 700 homes in that shanty town last year.
“Like Mackey Yard, other parcels have been occupied by Bahamians and non-Bahamians,” he said. “We are systematically moving to reclaim this government land.”
He added that one area in particular has several “beautiful homes constructed by Bahamians, occupied by Bahamians on government land squatting just like the Haitians did on this site.”
But unlike Bahamians, some Haitians legitimately believe that they have the right to be on the land, as many of them pay “rent”.
“On this land, a noted Bahamian was facilitating the collection of rent even though he didn’t own it, had no right to get it. He was collecting rent from the poor Haitians who lived on this same land,” Ingraham said, referring to Mackey Yard.
He added, “The reality is that we have identified a number of squatter communities on New Providence Island, all with the attendant social problems. We are addressing them systematically.
“Now just as these squatter settlements did not come about overnight, it will take time to eliminate them. But we will get the job done of reclaiming public lands and where circumstances require regularization of title, we will do the necessary. Today it’s Mackey Yard, earlier it was Pride Estates III. It will soon be Fire Trail Road, Sugarman Estate in Fox Hill and Dignity II on Carmichael Road. And, thereafter, it will be other places.”
Rolle said the government will spend about $3 million to $4 million constructing homes in the Carmichael Road area.
He added that the government had to relocate over 160 persons from their homes in a Pride Estates shanty town to clear the way for the creation of a road. He said the Department of Social Services had to assist with housing.
“We have been in talks with these individuals. We are in the process of sending these individuals, who we believe can qualify for home ownership, to the Mortgage Corporation,” Rolle said.
He added that the government will build smaller houses for them at a concessionary rate.
“We understand that it is a set of special circumstances. We don’t want them to be homeless.
We don’t want to put them on the streets. These are Bahamians we are dealing with. Many people believe that [they are] non-Bahamians or Haitian squatters.”